Part 1

Section 35—Romans 11:32.

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

This passage of Scripture is produced as a proof of God's will, that all men should be saved, and to show that he has rejected none from salvation by an absolute and antecedent decree, and consequently that Christ died for all men; seeing as God hath concluded all men in unbelief, none excepted, so, by the rule of opposition, he hath mercy on all, none excepted.[1] To which I answer:

1. That God shows mercy to all men in a providential way, is granted, for his tender mercies are over all his works; (Psalm 114:9.) but that all men are partakers of his special mercy through Christ, must be denied, since the vessels mercy are manifestly distinguished from the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction (Rom. 9:22, 23); and certain it is, that there are some whom he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will show them no favor (Isa. 27:11); and where God does extend his special mercy, it is wholly owing to his sovereign will and pleasure, for he hath mercy on whom, he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom. 9:18).

2. By the rule of opposition, no more can be thought to be the objects of God's mercy than those whom he has shut up in unbelief; which is not true of all men that ever were in the world; for, though all men are, by nature, unbelievers, yet they are not all shut up by God in unbelief. To be shut up in unbelief, is the same as to be concluded under sin, the meaning of which phrases is, not that God makes men sinners and unbelievers, or puts them into the prison of sin and unbelief, but that he proves, demonstrates, and convinces them, that they are in such a state and condition, as Chrysostom[2] on the other place observes, and which is the sense that Grotius and Vorstius,[3] who were both on the other side of the question, give of these words; for such who are savingly convinced of sin, are held and bound down by a sense of it in their consciences, that they can find no by-way to creep out, or make any excuse for it. Now, all men are not in this sense concluded under sin, or shut up in unbelief, none but those whom the Spirit of God reproves and convinces of these things; which convictions are wrought in them, on purpose that they may flee, not to their own merits, but to the mercy of God, which they may hope to share in, since with the Lord is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption (Ps. 130:7).

3. It is not said absolutely, God hath concluded, pantaV , all in unbelief, that he might have mercy, pantaV , on all; but God hath concluded, touV pantaV , them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy, touV pantaV , on them all, which limits and restrains the all to the persons the apostle is speaking of in the context; were the elect of God among the Jews and Gentiles, and so designs the fullness of the Gentiles, whom God determined to bring in, (v. 25), and especially that all Israel, (v. 26), that shall be saved, not by their own righteousness, but by the pure mercy and free grace of God. In short, by the all whom he has mercy on, and in order to bring them to a sense of their need thereof, concludes in, and convinces of, unbelief, are to be understood all believers, that is, who are eventually so, be they Jews or Gentiles, as Vorstius observes,[4] and which is manifest from a parallel text, The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe (Gal.3:22). Hence this passage neither militates against an absolute election, nor special redemption of particular persons.


[1] Limborch, 50:4, c. 5, sect. 6, p. 333.

[2] In Pharaeus in loc.

[3] In loc.

[4] In loc.

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