Warning: session_start(): open(/opt/alt/php56/var/lib/php/session/sess_3vbfj778nrj0it0tic4pneq4j4, O_RDWR) failed: Disk quota exceeded (122) in /home/q85ho9gucyka/public_html/wp-content/plugins/counterize/counterize.php on line 16
Calvin and Calvinism » Blog Archive » Ichabod Spencer (1798-1854) on Ezekiel 33:11 (Part 1)

Ichabod Spencer (1798-1854) on Ezekiel 33:11 (Part 1)

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11

God No Pleasure in the Death of the Wicked.

(shown from the purposes of God.)

As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.–Ezekiel, xxxiii. 11.

IN these words, God affirms something about himself. It is no new idea to the minds of this congregation, that the character of God is the leading idea in religion. Scarcely any theme of instruction is more difficult than the regard of the Deity for a sinner. To give to the revolted subject of God’s righteous government a correct apprehension of the feelings with which his God regards him, is an attempt attended with peculiar embarrassments. These arise, not so much from the obscurity of the subject itself, as from the strong tendency to misapprehend it. There is something in the nature of the case which contributes a great obstacle to correct apprehension. When we speak of the Deity as righteous, and man as under his rule, there is something of accusation immediately conceived. Conscience goes to work. The hearer at once feels that there is a design to reprove him; and the consequence of this feeling is, he puts himself on the defense. And even if we avoid all accusing terms–if the Bible avoids them–if we do not say that man is unrighteous–if we take pains to avoid all methods of expression which bring his own character to mind, and strive to present the subject in such a manner that he may examine it without the excitements of prejudice, and as an unbiased spectator, we are not able, after all, to accomplish the designs–the failure always shows our deficiency of skill in persuasion, and should humble us as preachers. The truth is, if we present the subject in the abstract, it will not be received so by the hearer. If we do not bring him into the question, he will bring himself in; neither our art nor eloquence can avoid it. And he usually comes prepared to defend himself, in some manner or in some degree, from the imputation which his own consciousness has suggested. Guilt is suspicious: This is John the Baptist risen from the dead. We can not speak of those attributes of the Deity necessarily associated with his being reconciled to an offender, without awakening something of the self-love and pride, if not something of the prejudice of him who still needs reconciliation. The nature of the case, therefore, renders it hard to give the proper impression to such a one. The Deity will be regarded, by those who have never been taught by the Spirit, in some measure as an enemy; and in such a case, surely, it would be the height of human candor to examine his character and his offers with unprejudiced fairness.

We are far from believing that most men design to run into this abuse. However self-love or self-respect might lead them to plead their cause strongly if they were to speak upon it, we are far from supposing they soberly intend to be uncandid when only called upon to think. To deceive and willingly ruin themselves is a thing distant from their designs. No man is willing to deceive and destroy himself.

But men desire to avoid the present unhappiness which the truth might create. Their hearts are opposed to it. And for these reasons they hazard the unhappy consequences of the future. In this sense they are guilty of willing self-deception and its wretched results. For these reasons they are not apt to look impartially at the character of God.

But this matter is no less important than difficult. An error here is particularly unfortunate and hazardous. All our ideas of religion are intimately connected with the character of God. That character lays the foundation of all that man can hope, and of what man must be. And if we have a false notion of that character, we shall have false notions of religion; the God we worship will be an imaginary God; the homage we render will be agreeable to our misconceptions; our religion, begun in error, will end in wretchedness, and we ourselves shall become those of whom it is said, deceiving and being deceived.

It becomes us, therefore, to examine such a subject in all its connections and with the utmost candor. To shield ourselves from the truth can be of no lasting benefit, and may be, in the end, of most awful disadvantage.

And, perhaps, there are few points where we need this caution more than we do when God tells us of his mercy. The text we have just read to you is one of those passages in which God condescends to meet one of those complaints which our hearts are apt to make against him. He here exonerates himself. lie declares what is his disposition in regard to sinners, and thus removes one of those vain excuses which men sometimes weave to themselves for continuing in their wickedness. I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

The design of this expression seems to be, to correct our ideas of the feelings of God, when we have run so far into error as to think him capable of pleasure in our destruction. Human hearts do often meet the peculiar emphasis of this declaration. There are those who have no religion, and who are prevented from making any determined efforts to attain it, because they are unhappily persuaded into the opinion that the pleasure of God is opposed to their salvation. This passage was designed to correct them. There are those who allege the controlling power of God, their dependence upon him, and his designs and dispositions, as a kind of apology for their irreligion. This passage was designed to rebuke them. There are those (and would to God there were more of them) who are desirous of securing eternal life, but, sensible of their sins, are afraid to approach God, lest there be something in his character unfavorable to their salvation. This passage was designed to encourage them, to remove that despondency which prohibits action, and animate with that vigor which hope alone inspires.

The text is in itself an unqualified declaration of God, that he does not take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. The declaration is needed. The wicked sometimes half believe he does. Such a belief is an injury to them. God would have them abandon it. He here condescends to exculpate himself, and, consequently, his conduct in relation to sinners, and thus would bring them to take courage in seeking God, or take the blame of their ruin upon themselves.

Now, the sentiment which this declaration opposes takes its rise, and is sustained in the mind of the wicked, by considerations drawn especially from three sources:

The Purposes of God:

The Nature of Religion; and

The Condition of the Wicked.

Could we give men just impressions about God, they would need no other instruction on these points. If we could throw the blaze of purity across these springs of error, it would dry up the fountains of falsehood, and stop the flow of those streams that waft so many down to the abysses of the damned. A just impression about God would teach man that the Divine purposes do not oppose his salvation. A just impression about God would teach man that the religion enjoined upon him is not so severe as to compel him to be lost. A just impression about God would teach the wicked that God has not placed him in such a condition in this world that his ruin is unavoidable.

But to meet definitely the sentiment to which this text is opposed, let us consider its three sources separately, and endeavor to justify the declaration of the text.

I. The Purposes of God. This will occupy us in the present discourse. The others will occupy us in two other discourses, to come afterward.

The perfections which enlightened reason always concedes to the Deity, oblige us to believe that he has created nothing which he did not want–nothing which has frustrated his expectations. Before he exercised one act of creating power, he saw all the consequences of his creation, knowing then, as perfectly as now, and as perfectly as he ever will know, all the results of felicity and wretchedness that would ever be realized in heaven, earth, and hell. And with all these before him, as the certain consequences of that constitution of things he was about to establish, and that creative energy he was about to exert, still he resolved, that under such a constitution, such a creation should rise. He spake and it was done. Having acted with previous knowledge of all the results of his actions, nothing that occurs can be contrary to his expectations.

So far, enlightened Reason coincides with the Word of God, and is satisfied with it. But here they separate. Not that they are contrary to each other; but that reason has reached her limits, beyond which she can never pass, except under the guidance of revelation, and she must trust that revelation henceforth at every step, or wander in darkness and error. Because God is the author of all creatures that exist, and knew, before their existence, all the results of it, we are sometimes apt to conceive of him as the sole author of all the miseries of his creatures. And as his power is sufficient to accomplish all his purposes, we draw the conclusion, that if we perish, it must be because he is pleased with our destruction.

Now, I wish,

1. To convince you that we have no right to draw any such conclusion.

2. To show you where such a principle of reasoning and drawing inferences would lead.

3. To name to you the considerations which should correct us.

1. We have no right to conclude that the Almighty is the sole cause of the miseries of his creatures, from the fact that he is the Author of their existence, that he knew, before he created, all the consequences of his creating, and that none of his expectations and purposes are frustrated.

The error of this method of reasoning lies in the inferring of consequences from principles that are unknown. “What are the principles? The purposes of God. What are the consequences? God’s pleasure in the sinner’s destruction, and the sinner’s unhappiness that he is subject to the purposes of God. But who is acquainted with these principles? Who has fathomed the eternal purposes of Jehovah? Who has known the mind of the Lord, or, being his counselor, has taught him? The purposes of God are beyond our reach. We know he has his purposes and will accomplish them, because he has told us so, and because they are necessary to the perfection of his character. But who knows what they are? Who has plunged into their depths? Who has traced their arrangements, their combination, their extent? Who will undertake to spread them out before us, and tell us how they affect us? They are placed beyond our reach. They are deep in themselves, and obscurely taught in the Scriptures, and no man can boast of understanding their nature, their combination, the mode of their application. How, then, can any man presume to draw conclusions from them. (We never do. Our hearers should not.) They are premises which a man does not know. He knows only in the general. He is ignorant of their nature, their power, their combination, and he can tell of no instance of their application, except those which God has taught him.

What kind of logic then, must he use who will draw inferences from such unknown premises? Tell me in what method the Purposes of God apply to the ruin of a sinner, and I will consent, forever afterwards, that you make the application. Unfold to me the Divine, Purposes–tear away the clouds and darkness that are round about the Deity–unseal the secret book of God, never jet read by the highest seraphim in glory; and then I will confess your right to reason from the purposes of God.

All that we know of the purposes of God is general. There is nothing special or particular in our knowledge. Our conclusions, therefore, must not run beyond our premises. Our knowledge of God’s purposes is not so particular that we can tell how they affect any action or any result. God has not told us; and when men have attempted to tell, they have always become bewildered. We have no right, therefore, to attempt to determine particular questions by all that we know of these obscure general principles. When we attempt it, we are wielding an instrument too heavy for us, whose edge and temper are unknown. It was made, not for an arm like ours, but for the arm of the Omnipotent One. Before we can apply the purposes of God to particular things–to our conduct, our destiny, or the pleasure of the Deity–we must know the method of application; we must know the particular character of the purposes; we must be able to understand how they affect the particulars.

Before I can draw safe conclusions from the principles of science, I must know what these principles are; I must understand the manner in which they apply to the subject; and, therefore, I must understand their nature and their combinations. But no man has such knowledge of the purposes of God. And, consequently, no man has any right to make such an application of them as implies this knowledge. No man has any right to conclude that God has any pleasure in the death of the wicked, on the ground that his purposes are at all opposed to their salvation. This is the first thing we proposed to show.

2. The second was to show to what results the principle of reasonings against which we contend would inevitably conduct us. If it is lawful for us to infer, from the purposes of God, that he has pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, then it is lawful for us, on the same principle, to infer that he has pleasure in that wickedness itself, which leads to destruction. For what is the principle on which the first inference is made? It is simply this–that because God is the author of every being that exists, and every thing that results from that existence, he must be the sole cause of all the miseries of his creatures, and, consequently (as he has every thing in his own way), must have pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. But the wickedness which ends in misery is as much a result of his having formed his creatures, as is the misery itself. And, consequently, if he is pleased with all the results of his creating power, he is pleased with the wickedness of men. The principle will apply here as well as to their destruction; and you may say, therefore, that because God is the author of every being that exists, and every thing that results from that existence, he must be the sole cause of all the wickedness of his creatures, and, consequently (as he has every thing in his own way), must have pleasure in the wickedness of the wicked! There is no avoiding this argument. If God must have pleasure in the death of the wicked, because he foresaw it, and yet determined to create them, he must, for the same reason, have pleasure in their iniquity! We may conclude, therefore, on this principle of reasoning, that God is pleased with sin! This is the result of attempting to reason from the secret purposes of God.

Again. The design of the argument we are combating, is to prove that men do not destroy themselves. The argument itself is, that such destruction is agreeable to God’s purposes, and, therefore, is unavoidable–it was predestinated. But if such destruction is agreeable to God’s purposes, and is, therefore, unavoidable, then, on the very same principle of reasoning, the guilt which incurs it is agreeable to God’s purposes, and is, therefore, unavoidable. We may conclude, therefore, on this principle, that there is no such thing as accountability–all the conduct of men being the result of an unavoidable necessity. Yea, therefore, we may conclude also, that there is no such thing as sin, all the conduct of men being the result of an unavoidable necessity! “We may call, therefore, the incendiary with his torch, the drunkard with his bowl, and the assassin with his steel, as innocent and pure as the spirits that never fell! These are other results of attempting to reason from the secret purposes of God.

The inevitable consequence, therefore, of this method of reasoning would be to destroy all idea of moral character among men; and, consequently, to prove him as pure, who is suffering for his crimes, as he who is honored for his virtues. That man who excuses his irreligion by the argument of God’s purposes, has no right to resent an insult or resist an injury, to the inconvenience of its perpetrators. How could they avoid it? This is another result to which this style of argument would lead. It would overthrow all human law, and all common sense.

3. The consideration which should correct this error is, the narrow limits of our understandings. We ought to bear in mind, that there are depths into which it is dangerous to plunge ourselves. The purposes of God he has never unfolded to us. He has nowhere shown us how far they extend specifically–how they apply, nor traced for us their combinations. He has not told us to receive them as our rule of action, to employ them to justify our conduct, or to measure our innocence or our criminality. The connection which these purposes of the Deity have with what he is constantly bringing to pass, is a connection wholly unknown to us: God has not told us what it is, nor given us sagacity sufficient to discover it. And here is the primary error of attempting to draw conclusions from the Divine purposes. We are pretending to employ in our reasoning a connection of which we are utterly ignorant. We have not the least knowledge of the nature of the connection which exists between the purposes of Jehovah and the actions of his creatures. And yet, we are apt to think and talk about this connection as if it were a thing we well understood–as if it were just the common link which joins causes and effects. Let the recollection of our incapacities–our limited understandings–our small degree of knowledge, correct our error.

And what, as ministers, we say to other people, we are willing to apply to ourselves. If it is wrong for the hearer to argue his innocence from the purposes of God, we confess it is no less erroneous for the preacher to attempt, from these purposes, to prove that his argument is false. The attempt has been made a thousand times, and a thousand times it has failed. Should any assert that his impiety is not his fault, and that his condemnation would be not from any fault of his own, because it would be the consequence of the purposes of the Deity, and so connected with these purposes, that be could not avoid it; we confess our inability to show directly from those purposes that he is mistaken. We have other ways of showing his mistake; but we confess our inability to show it in this way. We could show, in this way, that his argument was not conclusive, and that is all; we could not prove from these purposes the opposite doctrine. We shall see pretty soon in what manner this error might be corrected, when we show, from other sources, that the pleasure or purposes of the Almighty are not the reason of the sinner’s ruin. But we know so little of the eternal counsels of God, that we are unable, from that kind of knowledge, to affirm what is or what is not their influence. To have the power to make such an affirmation, we must attain a perfect knowledge of the purposes of God; we must know all their combinations; we must unfold to ourselves the manner of their influence; and then we must place them side by side with the dispositions of the sinner, and compare them with those dispositions so exactly as to prove by that comparison the precise nature and extent of their influence. But if we should attempt to do this, we should be running into the same error in reasoning of which those are guilty who reason from the purposes of God to show their innocence, and the pleasure of God in their ruin. This error consists, as we have just seen, in reasoning from unknown premises.

We will take, therefore, to ourselves the caution we gave to them. We will confess we can not fathom the purposes of God. Standing by the darkness that girds the throne of the Eternal, we will confess our eye is too dim to penetrate the cloud, and pass onward to the glories that lie beyond. Contemplating the infinity of the Divine Mind, we will receive the rebuke of our littleness: It is as high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know? But we will never mourn the darkness of the cloud that pavilions the habitation of God, as long as the bow of promise sweetly rests upon its bosom, and, spanning heaven, extends its covenant arch down to earth to embrace it.

But though we are incapable of unfolding the Divine Purposes, and proving thereby, that the Deity has no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, and that these purposes do not render sin and death unavoidable, yet we have other methods of showing this. He who alone knows perfectly those purposes and the dispositions of the wicked, has told us, and we have, therefore, the strongest of all possible evidence. If he had not told us, we confess our utter inability to have ever proved, from all we know of these purposes, that they do not violate our liberty, and render sin and its eternal punishment unavoidable. But he has told us they do not; and if we will not credit his testimony, what will we credit?

1. He has told us, in the language of the text: As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. If the purposes of God were of such a nature as to compel the wicked to his wickedness, and thus bring him to eternal death unavoidably, this declaration could not be true.

2. He has told us so in those explicit declarations which charge our destruction upon ourselves: Oh, Israel thou hast destroyed thyself. Now, if the Divine purposes forced men to sin, or placed insurmountable obstacles in the way of their salvation, I can conceive of no sense in which this declaration could be true.

3. He has told us so in those numerous passages which expressly declare, (what our text implies,) that is, he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Now, if the purposes of God were of such a nature as to prove the pleasure of God in the destruction of the wicked, we might change this declaration of Holy Writ; we might affirm, he would not that all men should be saved; he is willing that some should perish, but not that all should come to repentance. But who dare thus trifle with the Bible? Let God be true, but every man a liar.

4. He has told us so in those tender expostulations and earnest entreaties, which he employs to win sinners to himself. Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die? is only one among a thousand passages which express the same tender sentiment. Now, did the purposes of the Deity force the sinner–did they confine him in the bondage of corruption–did they prohibit success in attaining the favor of God, (as some of you sometimes affirm;) where would be the sincerity of God in calling him to turn, while he himself had rendered it an impossible thing?

5. He has told us the same thing in those lamentations which he utters over the doom of the wicked. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me! Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Now, how unworthy of the Deity would such utterances be, if he had pleasure in the fact that they had not hearkened unto him, so much as to have rendered it impossible by his immutable purposes that they should?

6. He has told us the same thing when he calls us to contemplate those attributes with which he clothes himself –attributes of mercy, forbearance, long-suffering and tender compassion. Take one of them, his long-suffering, as an example. He exalts his mercy, by naming the long-suffering which continues the offer of it: The Lord God, gracious, merciful, long-suffering. So he speaks of himself. But now, if the purposes of God prohibit repentance, how can he be any more merciful by exercising long-suffering with a sinner, and giving him year after year to repent in, than if he exercised no such forbearance, but cut him off the moment he began to sin? More: if the predestination of God prohibits repentance, then the long-suffering of God seems to be directly the opposite to mercy; for surely, by granting a wicked man three-score years and ten, while all the time he prohibits his repentance, he is only forcing him to enhance his wickedness, and ripen for a deeper condemnation. Were this the case, long-suffering would be the most dreadful attribute of God; and you ought to pray God–Smite me now! Wake thy thunderbolts of vengeance! Execute now on my devoted head the penalty of my guilt, before my unavoidable sins have prepared me for a deeper hell!

Now, in all these ways (and we could name a thousand others), God has told us that his purposes do not violate our liberty, and never can show that he has any -pleasure at all in the death of the wicked. Let us believe, my hearers, what he has told us. Let us not pretend to reason from the secret purposes of God. Those purposes are not the rule of our conduct or the measure of our innocence. They rest with God. They are the rules which he has been pleased to establish for his own conduct, not for ours. They are only his determination to govern his universe, just as he does govern it. With God let us leave them. He has not so definitely taught us what they are, and how they affect us, that we have any security at all when we take them as the basis of our reasonings. We have other premises, from which we may reason securely, because they are definitely known. But when we plunge ourselves into those obscurities where the Bible sheds no light, our way is darkness, and commonly its end is error. Let us confine ourselves within the limits that God has assigned to us. Let us believe that God has his purposes, because he has told us so, and because they are necessary to the perfection of his existence; and let us be willing to preach, and willing to hear of these purposes all that the sacred Scriptures contain. But let us not pretend to understand the connection of these purposes with our conduct or our destiny; for this God has not told us. We are left in ignorance of many points respecting these purposes. Their combinations, their efficiency upon the universe, the mode of their application, are all beyond us. Let not the preacher, therefore, vainly imagine that he can so unfold them as to silence every objection, or satisfy every honest difficulty; and let not the hearer, with the same audacious vanity, suppose that he knows enough about the purposes of God to prove that the wicked must unavoidably perish as they do, because God has pleasure in their death. Let the preacher silence objection and solve difficulty by employing other truths–truths more fully revealed and more accurately understood; by pronouncing the language of this text: As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; by saying to the sinner, Thou hast destroyed thyself. And let the hearer believe it. It is the direct testimony of Him who can not lie. How much more worthy of credit than those foolish conclusions which men foolishly gather from premises unknown.

This text is a vindication of God’s character. He comes down to meet the prejudices and difficulties of sinful men, to teach them that their ideas about the pleasure of God in purposing their eternal death, are altogether false. He announces their falsehood in the most emphatic manner: As I live, saith the Lord God, I ha re no pleasure in the death of the wicked. As live: he knew what difficulties would perplex our minds; ho knew how often the idea would intrude itself into the heart of a sinner, that the benevolence of God toward him is very questionable. He knew what a gloomy use Satan would make of it to bind the captive in his chains. He, therefore, utters the declaration in the most solemn style: As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He would convince every wicked man that he has not, in any way, on any account, the least pleasure in his death. He would drive that gloomy opinion from every mind that ever dares to entertain it. He would break that bond of Satan, and let the captive go free.

Of this whole subject, then, you may make specific applications.

There are those who have such ideas of God as to keep them from repentance. Through the devices of Satan and the deceitfulness of sin, they are led to think of God’s purposes as an apology for their course; they say, if they are on the road to ruin, it is God’s pleasure. But what daring impiety is this! They give to the Deity the most unlovely of all characters! They turn his benevolence into malignity, and his long-suffering into a trap and snare! They dare to lift up the voice of a worm of the dust, and contradict the very oath of God; they say he has pleasure in the death of the wicked Let this affirmation of God rebuke them!

There are those who have sometimes struggle I the power of sin within them, impelled by fears of the wrath to come, but whose attempts, few, perhaps, and feeble, have not been successful. Hence they conclude there is something in the purposes of God which hinders their deliverance. They are not (like the others we just mentioned) accustomed to make the purposes of God their apology for sin, and the cause of their feared condemnation. But still, the purposes of God are their stumbling-block. They imagine that they should long since have been Christians had not God’s purposes opposed them.

It would be barbarous, inhuman, to utter a harsh word to such persons. We pity them. “We could weep over them. We know the deep misery of their situation, for we have been in it; and may the God of all mercy deliver every such soul from the bitterness of its bitter bondage! And if there is one such in this assembly, let me tell you the idea which afflicts you is all delusion; it is a device of the Devil to keep you in your sins. God has no pleasure in our destruction. His purposes are not opposed to your salvation. They offer no violence to your liberty. They constitute no obstacle to your religion and your eternal life.

Let me expostulate with you. Tell me, my dear fellow sinner, my immortal companion, hastening with me to the tomb, how do you know that the purposes of God oppose you? Show me in what manner they affect you? Point me to the connection between one single design of Deity and one single instance of your unhappiness?

Prove to me that the purposes of God have, in any instance, so applied to you as to become the least obstacle to your salvation? Do this, and I will weep tears of blood over you, and blot for ever from my creed the article that seals your doom! But no–you can do none of these things. Such an opposition, such a manner, such a connection, such an application, can never be shown. Then why will you believe it? It is unsustained by the least evidence. It is opposed to the very oath of God. Let this oath correct you. God knows better than you do, and his word assures you you are mistaken. Cast aside, then, this gloomy delusion. Watch and pray. Seek, and struggle, and agonize. Be assured the purposes of God do not oppose you in your attempts, for he has no pleasure in your being lost, but in your being saved.

There are those who are sensible of their sins, but who fear to approach the Lord God, lest there should be something in his purposes opposed to their acceptance and salvation. This is a fear which the great deceiver would foster, to keep such a sinner at a distance from God. And this is a fear which the declaration of the text ought for ever to dispel. No sinner, who desires to be reconciled to God in Christ, ever finds the purposes of God opposed to him, Great and long-continued as may be his sins, God is ready to forgive. Let him not despair on account of their number or their enormity. Let him count them all over–let him weigh their aggravation–let him tell against how many monitions he has offended, how many cautions he has abused, how many warnings he has slighted, how many sermons have been lost upon him; let him swell the catalogue till memory has reached her limits, and weigh his crimes till thought is lost in the wilderness-account; and, after all, it will be true that the purposes of God are no obstacle to salvation–he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Perish who will, the character of God will be for ever untarnished and lovely. He desires the happiness, but not the damnation of sinners. He does not say to the wretch delighting in his iniquity, It is my purpose that impels you to it. He does not say to the once inquiring, but now careless or lingering sinner, You failed, because my purpose must be accomplished. He does not say to the anxious, trembling mortal, now asking what must I do to be saved?–You must perish, because your sins are so great, and my purpose is fixed. No. On the contrary, he opens the gates of heaven; he offers the blood of Christ; he sends the Holy Spirit; he tells of mercy, forgiveness, and free grace; and, to take out of the mouth of the lingering sinner his last apology, he records here his oath, As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

It is not his decree that fastens you in sin, and prohibits your repentance. It is not his decree that bars heaven, and denies grace. It was not his decree that dug hell, and kindled the fire that is never quenched. No, sinner, no, no! The chains that bind you are of your own forging. The grace you need is freely offered. And the hell into which you are plunging is kindled up only by the cherished wickedness which God entreats you to abandon! Hear–hear this declaration of the Lord God! He has no pleasure in your death. Let neither earth nor hell persuade you that the merciful God would have you perish! Cast aside your irrational conclusions! Believe the testimony of the Eternal! Break the enchantment of your gloomy conclusions, and anchor your eternal hope in the ocean of God’s mercy. You may be saved–you can be saved. For the Lord God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Do not destroy thyself.

Ichabod Spencer, Sermons of the Rev. Ichabod Spencer (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication. 1855), 1:285-304. [Some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 at 10:27 am and is filed under Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

2 comments so far

Scott Ferguson

Spencer is one of my favorites. His A Pastor’s Sketches is invaluable for any pastor and “evangelist.” Thanks for posting this, David!

February 16th, 2011 at 6:49 am

Hey Scott,

Naa, thank you for pointing me to him. I am going to post the other two sermons on this in the next few days. His sermon on the atonement is very good too. I am not sure under which subject header it should be cataloged tho. That whole time period seems to be really interesting as its clear they were trying to develop a new synthesis, keeping particularism with a proper appreciation for biblical universalism.


February 16th, 2011 at 8:32 am