An Exposition of 2 Peter, pp. 693-694,
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9
“Not willing that any should perish.” …And will the most wise and good Creator of all things hate the workmanship of his own hands? No, the Lord hates nothing that He has made. There is something in the creatures He has made, which He hates; but the creature itself, as it is a creature, He loves. Our weakness does often fail to distinguish between a man and his fault; so we hate the man together with his vice, whereas we should hate the vice and love the man. But God can distinguish between the metal which is his and the dross of the metal which is not his: he rejects the dross, but he wishes well to the metal. If a man’s wife be an adulteress, he puts her away, because she then ceases to be a wife; but if she repent, God does not put her away, because she does not cease to be a woman. Adultery may make her no wife, death itself cannot make her no creature. Both God and her husband detest her sin; yet God does, and her husband should, love her soul.
But if God be not willing that any should perish, how then do any come to perish? Can they perish against his will? Shall any be lost whom He will save? I might answer this objection, that the question here is not concerning God’s secret will; but so much of it as is revealed to us in his holy Word, whereby He affords means of salvation to all, declaring Himself not willing that any should perish.
But let us soberly examine this point; for Scripture seems to contradict Scripture. ‘God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth,’ 1 Tim. 2:4: and here, He is ‘not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’ On the contrary, ‘Whom He will He hardened,’ Rom. 11:18 and, ‘I will harden the heart of Pharaoh,’ Ex. 7:3. Is the Spirit divided? If truth be against truth, how can it stand? Who will harden? That God which is rich in goodness, whose mercy is above all his works, will He? He which is grieved for our offences, and wills not the death of a sinner, will He harden? And of all places, the temple for his Holy Spirit to repose in, the exchequer and storehouse for all his graces, will He harden the heart? He says, He will: yet dares the blasphemous sinner rub his filthiness on that immaculate purity of his Maker? Does He live by his mercy, and yet charge Him of injustice, making it the midwife of so foul a progeny? Evil could never be the child of goodness, nor can sin (so basely descended) lay claim to omnipotency. Does pure water and puddle flow immediately from the self-same spring? or light and darkness from the same sun? How then comes it to pass? Consider with me these positions.
4. God affords the means of salvation to all, therefore He would have none to perish. He offers his gospel, his gospel offers Christ, Christ offers his merits, his merits offer justification. If we bring willingness, his gospel is ours; if we bring faith, Christ is ours; if we join with it repentance, his mercy and merits are ours; if we add to all new obedience, salvation is ours.
Why else are those affections attributed to God, which are properly and formally found in us, not in Him? Sometimes He will not be hindered from punishing: Let me alone, that I may destroy them, Ex. 32:10. Why, what can hinder Him? At another time, He desires to be hindered, and would have some stand in the gap, to save his people from his wrath, Eze. 13: as a kind father, being ready to correct his child, beckons to some neighbor to take Him off. Other times He complains of his lost endeavours to bring them to repentance: ‘I have laboured in vain,’ Isa. 49:4. What do all these signify, but his unwillingness to have any perish?
Why then does He punish with perdition? No otherwise than as some just judge, that would have all men live regularly, and free from disorders; but having transgressed the laws, justice compels him, and that by a good and rectified will, to punish them. Some would have this will of God to be velleitatem [willingness] rather than voluntatem [will]; not so much an absolute will and resolution, as a willingness and desire: not unlike a merchant’s casting his freight overboard in a dangerous tempest. He would willingly save them, and yet he is willingly content to lose them, says one.
But if God be willing that none should perish, why then are not some made partakers of his grace, as well as others? St. Augustine answers, Some men therefore want [lack] grace, not because God does not proffer [offer] it, but because they will not receive it.