Commentary on Numbers (1618), p. 678
We learn hereby that the Lord is very desirous to have sinners converted and brought to repentance,
(Margin Note: God is desirous to have sinners brought to repentance)
that so He may save them (Isa. 65:2; Eze. 33:11, 18, 31-32; Mt. 23:37; 2 Cor. 5:20). Peter preaches repentance to them that killed the Prince of Life and denied Him in the presence of Pilate when he was determined to let Him go (Acts 3:13,15). Even to these that murdered and betrayed the Son of God, did the Lord offer salvation. To this end He is of such great patience, because He is not willing that any one should perish (2 Pet. 3:9).
Because first, they are his creatures and his workmanship, and therefore there is great reason why He should desire their good. Natural parents do desire to save and keep in health their children. They that belong to God [by external Covenant] are his dear children (Isa. 49:15-16). He loves Israel as his firstborn.
Thirdly, it is more honor to God to convert and save than to destroy and cast away his people. Doubt not, but be well assured that God will do that which tends most to his own glory (Rom. 11:1-2). Justice and judgment causes Him to be feared, but his mercy and love is that which makes Him to be honored of men.
The uses [applications] remain:
Has God an earnest desire to convert and save men? Then it ought also to be our desire to be like in this to our heavenly Father, that is, to labor to convert and bring home others unto God that go astray from Him: for in so doing we shall follow the footsteps and example of God, dealing with our brethren in mercy and compassion as God has dealt with us. Let the husband labor to convert the wife (1 Cor. 7:16) and the wife to win her husband; the parents their children, and the children their parents: and every one to convert his brother. A duty most acceptable to God and most profitable to others. An argument of love and charity, greater love than this can no man show. So says Christ to Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,” (Lk. 22:32; Jam. 5:19-20).
Secondly, this serves to condemn the practice of many men in our times and to testify that they are far from God and can have no assurance to themselves that they are his children and bear his image. God is desirous to seek out and to save them that are lost, (Luke 19:10; 15:4) like the good Shepherd that leaves 99 [sheep] in the wilderness, and this was the end of the coming of Christ. But we are for the most part careless in this duty: few do think it to belong unto them. Others are so far from seeking to convert that they rather seek to subvert others: and of these the number is far greater than of the former, who do cross by all means they can, the purpose and desire of God. He labors to save, and they to destroy: He to build, and they to pull down; He to plant, and they to root up; He to bring to heaven, and they to hell. These are of their father the devil, and his lusts they do: they join with him, they labor for him, they advance and enlarge his kingdom, and they seek to bring more unto him. This is a fearful sin, which we must repent of, or else we shall repent of it when it is too late.
Lastly, this must teach everyone to have a special care of his own salvation, seeing God is so desirous of it. For every man should be more careful of his own good, than another or of another’s. It is so in the body, it ought also to be so in the soul. We cannot be more careful of our own salvation than God is: and therefore seeing He is so desirous of it, let every man labor to do what in him lies toward his conversion, that so God may accept of him.