Isaiah 1:18, 19.
Come now and let us reason together; If ye be willing and obedient, etc.
I. The eighteenth verse is considered in strict connection with the words preceding and following; from whence it is concluded, that to cease to do evil, and learn to do well, to be willing and obedient, are qualifications for the pardoning mercy of God, and conditions of obtaining it; the promises of pardon, life, and salvation, being made to persons of such characters. But,
1. Let it be observed, that the eighteenth verse may be read in a parenthesis, without any connection with or dependence on either the preceding or subsequent verses; being thrown in on purpose to comfort the people of God, oppressed with a sense of their sins, whilst he is expressing his just resentment and indignation against the sins of others.
2. Admitting it to be in strict connection with the context, it contains a free declaration of pardoning grace and mercy, without any conditions annexed to it; it is not expressed in a conditional form; it is not said, if ye cease to do evil, and learn to do well, then though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; nor is it said, if ye be willing and obedient, then though your sins be red like
crimson, they shall be as wool, but ye shall eat the good of the land.
3. God’s promise of pardon is free, absolute, and unconditional; it is expressed in this manner; I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more (Heb. 8:12.); and made to persons guilty both of sins of omission and commission; who had bought him no sweet cane with money; neither had filled him with the fat of sacrifices; but had made him to serve with their sins, and had wearied him with their iniquities (Acts 5:31).
4. Pardon of sin is never ascribed to any condition performed by men, but to the free grace of God, streaming through the blood of Christ; which was shed to obtain it, and in whose gift it is, being exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance unto Israel, and forgiveness of sins (Isa. 43:24, 25); and which is often given to persons without any conditions previously qualifying them for it.
5. Obedience is not the condition of pardon, though a declaration of pardon is an excellent motive to induce to obedience; evangelical obedience springs from, and is influenced by, discoveries of pardon, but is neither the cause nor condition of it.
II. It is here promised to such who are willing and obedient, that they shall eat the good of the land; and threatened to the disobedient, that they shall be devoured with the sword; from whence it does not follow, that it is in the power of man to do what is spiritually good, much less that eternal happiness depends upon, or is to be obtained by man’s obedience. For,
1. The voluntary obedience here encouraged, is to things civil; such as to relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow, verse 17, which it is allowed are in the power of a natural man to perform; and might be reasonably expected from a professing people, as these were to whom those exhortations were given.
2. What is here promised, is not of a spiritual or eternal, but of a temporal nature; ye shall eat the good of the land; that is, of the land of Canaan; the possession of which they held by their obedience to those laws of a moral, civil, and ceremonial kind, which God gave them as a body politic; and which, so long as they observed, they were continued in the quiet and full enjoyment of all the blessings of the good land, flowing with milk and honey, as were promised to them; see Deuteronomy 5:32, 33, 6:24, 25, 28:1-14, and Leviticus 26:3-10. But when they refused and rebelled it was otherwise with them. And therefore,
3. The punishment threatened to their disobedience and rebellion is temporal; ye shall be devoured with the sword, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it; as he had in Leviticus 26:25, 33, and so it was frequently with this people, when they broke the laws of God, transgressed his commands, and rebelled against him, the enemy was let in upon them, the sword was drawn against them, and they destroyed by it, or carried captive.
 Whitby, p. 181, 242, 298; ed. 2. 177 236, 291.