22. What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
22. Quid autem si Deus volens demonstrare iram, et notam facere potentiam suam, sustinuit in multa patientia vasa irae, in interitum ap-parata;
23. And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
23. Ut notas quoque faceret divi-tins gloriae sum in vasa misericordiae, quae preparavit in gloriam?
22. And what, etc. A second answer, by which he briefly shows, that though the counsel of God is in fact incomprehensible, yet his unblamable justice shines forth no less in the perdition of the reprobate than in the salvation of the elect. He does not indeed give a reason for divine election, so as to assign a cause why this man is chosen and that man rejected; for it was not meet that the things contained in the secret counsel of God should be subjected to the judgment of men; and, besides, this mystery is inexplicable. He therefore keeps us from curiously examining those things which exceed human comprehension. He yet shows, that as far as God's predestination manifests itself, it appears perfectly just.
The particles, ei de, used by Paul, I take to mean, And what if? so that the whole sentence is a question; and thus the sense will be more evident: and there is here an ellipsis, when we are to consider this as being understood, -- |Who then can charge him with unrighteousness, or arraign him?| for here appears nothing but the most perfect course of justice.
But if we wish fully to understand Paul, almost every word must be examined. He then argues thus, -- There are vessels prepared for destruction, that is, given up and appointed to destruction: they are also vessels of wrath, that is, made and formed for this end, that they may be examples of God's vengeance and displeasure. If the Lord bears patiently for a time with these, not destroying them at the first moment, but deferring the judgment prepared for them, and this in order to set forth the decisions of his severity, that others may be terrified by so dreadful examples, and also to make known his power, to exhibit which he makes them in various ways to serve; and, further, that the amplitude of his mercy towards the elect may hence be more fully known and more brightly shine forth; -- what is there worthy of being reprehended in this dispensation? But that he is silent as to the reason, why they are vessels appointed to destruction, is no matter of wonder. He indeed takes it as granted, according to what has been already said, that the reason is hid in the secret and inexplorable counsel of God; whose justice it behoves us rather to adore than to scrutinize.
And he has mentioned vessels, as commonly signifying instruments; for whatever is done by all creatures, is, as it were, the ministration of divine power. For the best reason then are we, the faithful, called the vessels of mercy, whom the Lord uses as instruments for the manifestation of his mercy; and the reprobate are the vessels of wrath, because they serve to show forth the judgments of God.
23. That he might also make known the riches of his glory, etc. I doubt not but the two particles kai hina, is an instance of a construction, where the first word is put last; (husteron proteron) and that this clause may better unite with the former, I have rendered it, That he might also make known, etc. (Ut notas quoque faceret, etc.) It is the second reason which manifests the glory of God in the destruction of the reprobate, because the greatness of divine mercy towards the elect is hereby more clearly made known; for how do they differ from them except that they are delivered by the Lord from the same gulf of destruction? and this by no merit of their own, but through his gratuitous kindness. It cannot then be but that the infinite mercy of God towards the elect must appear increasingly worthy of praise, when we see how miserable are all they who escape not his wrath.
The word glory, which is here twice mentioned, I consider to have been used for God's mercy, a metonymy of effect for the cause; for his chief praise or glory is in acts of kindness. So in Ephesians 1:13, after having taught us, that we have been adopted to the praise of the glory of his grace, he adds, that we are sealed by the Spirit of promise unto the praise of his glory, the word grace being left out. He wished then to show, that the elect are instruments or vessels through whom God exercises his mercy, that through them he may glorify his name.
Though in the second clause he asserts more expressly that it is God who prepares the elect for glory, as he had simply said before that the reprobate are vessels prepared for destruction; there is yet no doubt but that the preparation of both is connected with the secret counsel of God. Paul might have otherwise said, that the reprobate give up or cast themselves into destruction; but he intimates here, that before they are born they are destined to their lot.