John Murray ( 1898-1975) was a Scottish-born Calvinist theologian who taught at Princeton Seminary and helped found Westminster Theological Seminary, where he taught Systematic Theology for thirty years until his retirement in 1966. His Collected Writings of John Murray: 4 vol. set are available.
He begins this posthumously-published booklet, "It would appear that the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God DESIRES the salvation of all men... the free offer of the gospel to all ... surely respects, not the decretive or secret will of God, but the revealed will. There is no ground for the supposition that the expression was intended to refer to God's decretive will... to say that God desires the salvation of the reprobate ... would be contradiction; it would amount to averring ... that God wills and God does not will. The question then is: what is implicit in, or lies back of, the free offer of the gospel to all without distinction?" (Pg. 3-4)
He admits, "in the case of Deuteronomy 32:29 and Isaiah 48:18... the Lord represents himself ... as earnestly desiring the fulfillment of something which he had not in the exercise of his sovereign will actually decreed to come to pass." (Pg. 11) Of the invitation in Matt 11:28, he says "the basis and background of this invitation are supplied by the uniqueness of the relation that [Jesus] sustains to the Father as the Son... and the sovereignty... which he exercises because of that unique relationship." (Pg. 14-15)
He suggests, "the sum of the matter may be state in the following propositions: It is absolutely and universally true that God does not delight in or desire the death of a wicked person. It is likewise... true that he delights in the repentance of and life of that wicked person..." (Pg. 17) He adds, when it is said that God absolutely and universally takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, we are not speaking of God's decretive will. In terms of his decretive will it must be said that god absolutely decrees the eternal death of some wicked and, in that sense, if absolutely pleased so to decree." (Pg. 21)
He further states, "If it is his pleasure to will that all repent and be saved, it is surely his pleasure that all repent and be saved. Obviously, however, it is not his decretive will that all repent and be saved. While, on the one hand, he has not decretively willed that all be saved, yet he declares unequivocally that it is his will and, impliedly, his pleasure that all turn and be saved. We are again faced with the mystery and adorable richness of the divine will. It might seem to us that the one rules out the other. But it is not so... we are constrained to bow in humble yet exultant amazement before his ineffable greatness and unsearchable judgments." (Pg. 23)
He summarizes, "The most satisfactory view of 2 Peter 3:9 ["The Lord is not slack concerning his promise...; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance"] is: ... the delay of the coming of judgment should be acknowledged as a manifestation of the long-suffering or patience of God with sinners... The delay is not due to slackness in God, but is to be regarded as an expression of longsuffering towards men... He is longsuffering... because he wills or wishes that all should come to repentance... But the will of God that men be saved ... is not conditional. It is not: I will your salvation if you repent; but: I will that you repent and thus be saved." (Pg. 27-28)
He concludes, God himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards that which he has not been pleased to decree. This is indeed mysterious, and why he has not brought to pass... what is his ardent pleasure lies hid in the sovereign counsel of his will." (Pg. 29)
Very complex for such a brief work, this book will be of great use to those studying the "hard" aspects of the doctrines of predestination and election.