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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 56 - Romans 10:21 - Divine Yearnings over the Sons of Men Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


Let us mark here, first, God's treatment of man; secondly, man's treatment of God.

I. God's treatment of man. It is of Israel specially that the apostle is speaking; but what is true of them in this case, is true of all. God in His dealings with man shews us that His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. As the heavens are to a grain of sand, or as 'the ocean to a drop, so are His thoughts to ours; wider, fuller, larger, higher, deeper; like Himself and He is love. In all God's words to Israel in the Old Testament, the good news of His wide and free love come out very simply. The New Testament formula, "Believe and be saved," is not there; but the gracious character of Jehovah is fully unfolded, and so presented to sinners, as if it had been said, "Whoever owns the true God is saved; whoever is willing to come to Him is welcome; and whoever calls on Him shall not be put to shame." Herein is love.

(1.) Long suffering. He stretches out His hands; He does so all the day long. We may take this as simply meaning the whole of each natural day of our lives; or the whole of "the day of salvation." In either case we see the same longsuffering; God not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Here we see Him waiting to be gracious; pitying the sinner; not cutting him off in his sins; not easily provoked; merciful and gracious; forbearing anger and judgment; not putting forth His power, but waiting long and patiently; not visiting transgression, nor dealing sharply with the transgressor.

(2.) Earnest desire to bless. There is much more in the words than mere longsuffering or forbearance. There is the exhibition of the most intense yearning over the sons of men. There are no words spoken; it is the attitude that marks the earnestness and the longing. Jesus wept over Jerusalem; God stretches out His hands to sinners, like one pleading with them, like one trying to save them, like one beckoning to them, like one expressing by signs feelings too strong for utterance. How shall I give thee up! I have no pleasure in your death! Why will ye die! Come, now, and let us reason together! How often would I have gathered you! Ye will not come to me! O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! Turn ye, turn ye! Come unto me! These are the feelings expressed by the posture in which God is here represented as standing,—looking down from heaven upon men, yearning over them, beseeching them to be reconciled. Earnest He is in this thing,—honestly, sincerely earnest, for He knows the worth of the soul which He has made, He knows the greatness of the joy or sorrow which must be its portion, He knows what the loss of heaven will be, and what the everlasting darkness will be,—and what the unchangeable eternity will be to which they are passing. Yes, God's desire to bless the sons of men,—the chief of sinners amongst them,—is sincere and true, earnest and deep and warm; however difficult it may be to reconcile this with the fact of there being an endless hell; however impossible for us fully to answer the question so often put by unbelief within and without, Why then does He let any one perish since He has the power to save?

II. Man's treatment of God. Man's thoughts and ways toward God, are the reverse of God's thoughts and ways toward man. He walks "after his own thoughts" is Isaiah's expression (65:2). Man's actings and thinkings and feelings toward God may be set out as follows:—

(1.) Indifference. Occupied with himself and his own world of pleasure and business, man treats God and His claims, whether of law or love, with disregard. God is not in all his thoughts. He tries not to think about God at all; to preoccupy his mind with other objects, so as to induce forgetfulness and indifference. The absence of God, and the want of His favor, are not things which concern him, or make him unhappy for a moment He can do without God!

(2.) Unbelief. Man in so far as his fellows are concerned is no unbeliever. He is quite ready to receive the testimony of men; nay, he is often credulous, and believes without evidence or against evidence. But in the things of God he is thoroughly an unbeliever; both as to God Himself, and as to the truth and testimony of God. He disbelieves and he distrusts. He has no confidence in God, or in His word. Faith in God is wholly alien to him.

(3.) Disobedience. In Isaiah (65:1) it is called "rebellion"; "walking in a way not good." God's will is a hateful thing to man; so is God's law, which is the declaration of that will. To obey God save through terror is what he never thinks of; and even then it is mere outward compliance. Man's heart never obeys God till renewed. His whole life is consistent and deliberate disobedience, sometimes more open and daring, and sometimes less.

(4.) Gainsaying. Man speaks against God; he acts against God. In both senses he is a gainsayer. He has no good word to say of God or of his Christ; he sets himself against both. Here we have such things as the following:

(a.) Captiousness. He is perpetually finding fault with God; with His word, and ways, and dispensations; with His actings toward individuals and the world at large. "Why doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted His will," is one form of human fault finding with God. "If we pine away in our iniquities, how shall we then live?" (Ezekiel 33:10) is another form. There are many forms of captious gainsaying or murmuring; this discontent and repining, and charging God either with injustice or unkindness.

(b.) Obstinacy. Stout-heartedness and stiff-neckedness are God's frequent charges against Israel; no less against us. We are stubborn and self-willed; preferring our own way and wisdom to His. We are like the horse or mule; like the bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. We will neither be led nor driven. We resist; we kick against the pricks.

(c.) Refusal of blessing. Yes; man refuses to be blest. This is the most unaccountable part of man's gainsaying. He thrusts away the love of God, and the blessing which that love holds out. He does not like (1) the blessing itself; (2) the terms on which it is given; (3) the giver; (4) the effects which would follow receiving it,—a holy life.

Thus man deals with God, setting himself against Him in all ways and things. Yet thus does God continue to deal with man in unwearied love and patience. He still bends over him to the last, as Jesus did over Jerusalem, yearning, pitying, longing to bless!