September 6, 2014

B. H. Carroll (1843–1914) on Motives and Encouragements to Repentance; with Reference to 2 Peter 3:9

"The Lord is willing that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). This scripture expresses not an irresistible decree, but the attitude of the divine mind toward all men. As repentance must be toward God, if he, one of the two at variance, and withal the one aggrieved, is willing to accept the repentance of the transgressor as a step toward reconciliation, it places the responsibility of decision on the man, and teaches that the final damnation of any soul on account of sin is suicide – the sinner destroys himself. The emphasis should be placed on "willing" and "all." The Lord is willing; is the sinner willing? The willingness of God is toward all, excluding no nation, no class, no individual: "How often would I have gathered you but ye would not," "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life," "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." No view of the divine decrees, no interpretation of the doctrines of election and predestination should be allowed to obscure the brightness, or limit the broadness, of this attitude of the divine mind toward sinners. Our own hearts should be full of it when we preach or teach the gospel to lost men. And we should prayerfully and diligently labor to possess their minds with the conviction that if everything else in the universe be a lie, it remains true that "God wishes all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). We must not, dare not, doubt his sincerity, nor impugn his veracity, when he says, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezek. 33:11).

This willingness of God that all should come to repentance is evident (a) by his abundant provision of mercy"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life," (John 3:16) ; "That by the grace of God he should taste death for every man," (Heb. 2:9); "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world," (1 John 2:2). (b) It is evident in that the terms of this mercy are simple and easy--repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21; Rom. 10:8-9). (c) It is evident in that, by the church and ministry, he has provided for a perpetual and worldwide publication of this mercy and its terms (Luke 24:47; Matt. 28:19; Acts 17:30). (d) It is evident by the earnestness and broadness of his gracious invitations (Isa. 55:1; Matt. 11:28; Rev. 22:17). (e) It is evident by his suspension of the death penalty, assessed against the sinner, that space for repentance may be allowed (Gen. 6:3; Matt. 3:10; Luke 13:6-9; Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9, 15; Rev. 2:21). (f) It is evident by his joyous welcome to the penitent (Luke 15:20, 24) who returns in this space. (g) It is evident by his sincere grief over the finally impenitent who allow the space to pass away unimproved (Luke 19:41-44). What mighty motives are in all these thoughts! What an inexhaustible supply of sermon themes! What preacher has drawn all the water out of these wells of salvation? For an elaborate discussion of God's willingness that all sinners should come to repentance, it may not be regarded as immodest for me to refer the reader to the sermon, "God and the Sinner," in my first volume of published sermons."
B. H. Carroll, "The Four Gospels: Part 1," in An Interpretation of the English Bible, ed. by J. B. Cranfill (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978 reprint of Nashville: Broadman Press, 1948), 193195.


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