Peter was right in saying (II Peter 3:16) that in Paul's epistles there were some things hard to be understood. The verses in Rom. 9:15-20 are confessedly difficult. They appear to be contradictory to the conclusion which Paul reaches at the close of his argument (Romans 1132) "God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." Perhaps we would understand his argument better if we knew more of the people to whom he was writing. It may have been, that among them were some who had the audacity to criticize God's method of government, and Paul wanted them to realize that God was not under obligation to save any who rebelled against him. That fact we must admit. No man can claim as a right that God shall forgive him. We know, from Christ's own words and from Paul's own letters, that God does forgive all who come to him in penitence. But when a man defies him, as Pharaoh did, Paul contends that God makes an example of him, that men of all times may see what is the end of defiance of his rule. We do not imagine that Paul meant that God directly hardened Pharaoh, but that the hardening is was the effect of the removal of the plagues and was "permitted." The very mercy had the opposite effect on the man that it should have had. Pharaoh misunderstood it, as men now misunderstand God's long-suffering, and think they will escape altogether. Our side of the question is not God's sovereignty, which we can never understand, but the sublime fact that "whosoever will" may come to Christ and be saved.