June 30, 2016

Thomas Jackson Crawford (1812–1875) on the Distinction Between God’s Desires and Purposes

(3.) It may be alleged, however, that the invitations of the Gospel, besides being expressive of the undisputed fact that whosoever complies with them shall obtain the offered blessings, are also indicative of A DESIRE on the part of God that all sinners to whom they are held out should comply with them; and how, it may be asked, can such a desire be sincere, if it be the purpose of God to confer only on some sinners that grace by which their compliance will be secured?

Now, without pretending that we are able to give a satisfactory answer to this question, we are not prepared to admit, what the question evidently assumes, that God can have no sincere desire with reference to the conduct of all His creatures, if it be His purpose to secure on the part of some, and not on the part of all of them, the fulfillment of this desire. For how does the case stand in this respect with His commandments? These, no less than His invitations, are addressed to all. Both are alike to be considered as indications of what He desires and requires to be done by all. Nor are there wanting, with reference to His commandments, testimonies quite as significant as any which are to be found’ with reference to His invitations, of the earnestness and intensity of His desire that the course which they prescribe should be adopted by all who hear them. Take, for example, these tender expostulations: “O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” [Deut. v. 29.]. “O that my  people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!” [Ps. lxxxi. 13.]. “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments; then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the wav& of the sea!” [Isa. xlviii. 18.].

But while the commandments of God are thus indicative of what God desires, approves of, and delights in, as congenial to the goodness and holiness of His moral nature, they are certainly not declarative, at the same time, of what He has fixedly purposed or determined in His government of the universe to carry into effect. For if they were so, it is certain that they would be unfailingly and universally obeyed by all His creatures; whereas they are frequently violated, without any interference on His part to secure their observance. Doubtless it is an inscrutable mystery that things should thus be done under the government of the Almighty which are in the highest degree displeasing and offensive to Him. It is just the old mystery of the existence of moral evil, which no one has ever been able to explain.

DNB (2)