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Gerrit Vos was a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches from 1927-1966.

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 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?

Romans 9:18-20

There is more and more religion in this world, but less of the fear of God.

There are more and more churches built and congregations organized, but less true calling on the name of Jehovah.

God is becoming more and more the great stranger among men.

Millions of Bibles are printed and distributed, but few of them are read.

Many read the Bible, but few believe.

Many believe the Bible, but very few believe all of Scripture. They conveniently omit parts, because they hate them.

My text is one of those parts of holy Scripture that are hated, hated very cordially.

There are some in this God-forsaken age who know that no man can be saved except he believe the whole Bible, and so they set themselves to corrupt portions such as this one. They then believe their corruptions, thinking they believe the Bible.

But it is not true.

As a child I heard men say that ministers should preach the whole counsel of God! Well, portions such as this belong to the whole counsel of God. Men should believe them, and worship. Portions such as these teach a God that is God indeed. There can be no other God. It belongs to the Godhead to be this terrible.

Elihu sensed this, and cried out, “With God is terrible majesty” (Job 37:22).

Yes, it is so: with Him is a terrible majesty. He is the only One who is majestic. He is the only Sovereign. He doeth all His good-pleasure.

God grant that we choose not pretty speeches when talking about this terrible text. In short, our maker would destroy us.

We must, we shall, let God be God.

The absolute sovereign.

Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy!

How beautifully simple is the matter of election! It is so simple that even a child can grasp it. It is the diamond of God’s love and lovingkindness that is eternal.

I may put it this way too: God has mercy on the elect.

Yes, there are elect, and there shall be elect always on this sorry earth.

What is election? Election is this: God loves some men, and He loved them before they were born. He loved them before the world was made. He loved them from all eternity. As old as God is, so old is the election of some certain men.

In the quiet wakes of eternity, before the world was, God said within Himself: I love you, My elect, and I will love you unto all eternity. I will reveal all My glory unto you and unto you alone. I will make you vessels that shall be filled with all My glory, and you shall be glorious yourselves unto all eternity. And since I will show My glory in your salvation from eternal death, I shall be very merciful to you. For My mercy is love for the object in mercy.

Oh, yes, the elect have been elected to be strangers on the earth. When they are strangers and pilgrims they will be in great pain and misery. Then the love of God shall turn to them. And love turned to the miserable is mercy.

The number of those elect who will be recipients of the mercy of God is determined. Their number cannot be increased; nor can it be decreased. God knows them that are His. He said from all eternity: You are My child! You shall be My child unto all eternity! I will have mercy on you! And you shall be deliriously happy in the gift of My mercy.

Oh, yes, blessed be God, He is absolute in His willing! He is the absolute sovereign in His election.

He is also absolute in His reprobation.

“Whom he will he hardeneth!”

Have foolish men corrupted election? Yes, that is awful. But wait. Wait until you see what they have done to His reprobation. They have so smoothed over His reprobation, they have so polished away all the harsh lines and sharp corners, that one cannot anymore recognize the biblical truth of reprobation. When these men are through, man has reprobated himself. God did never reject man; man rejected himself.

I have heard it often: It is his own fault that wicked man is reprobated. This is utter nonsense. Man ought to say: God works out His reprobation of man through the wickedness of man. That is correct. But man ought never to say: It is man’s own fault that he is reprobated. How could that ever be? Reprobation took place before man was born, or had done either good or evil. Men, a certain number of men, were reprobated before they were born. Men, a certain number of men, were reprobated before the world was made. From all eternity God, who is the absolute Sovereign, said within Himself: For this cause shall I raise you up, for to show in you My power, and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth!

Thus reprobates are born. Attend to this: ages before Judas was born, the Holy Scriptures said of him, “Let his habitation be desolate….” Baby Judas was not yet born, but the Holy Scriptures in the home of the mother and father of Judas said, “and his bishoprick let another take….”

Let us not mock, but rather worship with fear and trembling. For, indeed, with Him is a terrible majesty.

So, I would beg of you, let it stand: “And whom He will He hardeneth.” I know, I know, that it really makes no difference whether you let this word stand or not. He will do His good-pleasure just the same! But I would beg it of you for your own sake. It does not pay to mock the Almighty.

Oh, yes, God hardeneth. How, you ask? I do not know. And I am persuaded that no one knows. In II Corinthians 2 we read of the same thing. The beauteous strains of the word of the Almighty are for some a savor of death unto death. Some enter the house of God; they listen to the sermon; and when they leave the house of God they are deader than when they entered. God hardened their hearts while they were in church. We read the simple story in Exodus. God assured Moses that He, that is, God, would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the people go. And it happened according to God’s word. It happened ten times.

The reprobates are hardened by God all through the ages. All of them are hardened.

Yes, I know that they harden themselves too. But only after God has hardened them. Even as with Pharaoh, so also with all reprobates: they are hardened by God first, and then they harden themselves.

Terrible truth, you say? Yes, but it is the truth nevertheless. It is the same truth that is trampled underfoot by the church of our day. Where do you find a church today that dares to confess the hardening by God of the reprobate? All through the ages the Lord had it written down, and, later, printed in a million Bibles.

Still God is the absolute sovereign.

He sovereignly loves, and the objects of His love receive His mercy.

He sovereignly hates, and the objects of His hatred receive His hardening.

But He is sovereign. With Him is a terrible majesty!

“Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?”

That is an objection, a wicked objection to God’s absolute sovereignty with respect to His decree of reprobation. It shows that I have explained it correctly. The way other men explain it would never evoke such an objection as we have to treat here. The way reprobation is explained, there is no reprobation left. And the audience bows the head politely, and says: Thank you, so very much! It sounded barbarous to me at first, but now that you have so ably explained it, Reverend, now it does not offend me anymore.

But that is not the way the apostle Paul explained it. The apostle Paul so explains reprobation that the wicked objections must come, do come, and he even anticipates them. Paul anticipates the wicked rejoinder of natural man. Natural man has listened to the explanation of reprobation especially, and it has aroused his ire. He saw himself used unto the glory of God. And according to Paul he could do nothing about it. In other words, wicked, proud man was dethroned by the Word of God. And he hated it. But he will try to catch the Lord in His own truth of reprobation. If God willed my reprobation, why does He cry out about my wickedness? Why does He find fault with me when I live out my reprobation? Is there a man who can resist the will of God unto reprobation? Well then, why does He then upbraid me for the fruits of His own reprobation? Such is the argument.

And what is the answer?

“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?”

In other words: God is sovereign.

God is sovereign.

And He is so absolutely.

He is so absolutely sovereign that He really does not answer the objection. God really does not enter into the argument. You believe, don’t you, that this answer is God’s answer, even though it came from Paul’s pen? It is the answer of the triune God through the Holy Spirit of the exalted Christ who dwelled faultlessly in Paul, so that he wrote the Word of God infallibly.

Oh, yes, here is God’s answer to the reprobate who criticized Him.

To criticize God. Isn’t it terrible?

I said once to a young man: Do not find fault with God. You lose before you start.

So it is here. God does not even deign to enter into the arguments. He says to us: I will love My elect, and I will hate the reprobate. That is the meaning of the first part of my text: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and whom I will I harden! God’s love comes to the elect in the adornment of mercy; and the hatred of God comes to the reprobate in their hardening.

God said that. And man, proud man, reprobate man, does not like it. He hates this absolutism. (Where did I hear this, long ago?) And so he dared to start an argument with God.

But God is God. And He shall give the fitting answer to this arrogancy. Nay but, O man, who art thou?

O man! That is really the answer.

O man! That is, a handful of clay. And a soul or spirit that is like a mist. It is seen for a few hours, and it vanishes.

What is man? Man is nothing. No, he is less than nothing, and vanity. All the nations together are nothing and less than nothing and vanity. What, then, is one dissenter?

Is my brain capable of following all the works of God?

Attend to this: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counselor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever, Amen.

So the Lord says really to the offended reprobate: Be still! Remember to whom you are talking. You are replying to the great God who made the heaven and the earth. You are finding fault with Him who shall be the song of perfect angels and of righteous men unto all eternity.

I am the sovereign of the universe.

God is sovereign, absolutely sovereign.

What is man? A speck of dust. A filthy speck at that. It is his filth that makes him take God to task. We shudder when we say it. God is God.

Yet there is argument in the clause: Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? There is a beautiful argument in it. It is this: God is above all reproach. God is above all evil. God is wholly and exclusively beautiful and lovely, attractive and comely. He cannot do anything that is wrong!

Do you not see that the question of the reprobate casts a slur on the beautiful Godhead? Do you not see that, if it were true what this man said, there would not be a God?

Attend to this; it is the most important sentence in this whole meditation: It is impossible for God to be anything but good; it is impossible for God to do anything but good!

What has the wicked rejoinder proven?

This: the reprobate has shown in his wicked question that he has a reprobate mind.

If holy angels in heaven cover their faces because of so much beauty in the Godhead, what shall we then do?

Let us worship. Oh, let us worship!