Sinners who love death are objects of compassion to a gracious God, who prefers the sinner's conversion to the sinner's damnation
("Sinners shall be converted unto Thee," a sermon on Psalm 51:13, in Pulpit and Communion Table, 1969 edition, pp. 134-135)
The conversion of sinners is a matter in which the gracious God takes the deepest interest. Sinners are not concerned about conversion ordinarily. Sinners are lost, but it does not much matter to them that they are lost. They don't fully know it. They are not altogether ignorant of it—conscience speaks in every man more or less, but they are not fully aware of it, and they are not willing to be so. The voice of conscience is very feeble in fallen man, and the voice of depravity very loud and imperious, and it silences it. But while sinners are not objects of compassion to themselves, they are objects of compassion to God. Fools, hating wisdom—Christ, the wisdom of God—love death. Not designedly, but really they love death. They love that with which death is indissolubly connected, and so they love death. Looking at death, they don't love it, but looking at that of which death is the wages—sin—they do love sin; and they love sin so much, that they will take it with death rather than want it. In short, they dislike death much, but sin they love so well that they will take it even with death. That is the sinner's mind, and what is God's mind? It is hardly credible, so He swears to it:—"As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?" Sinners are lost. Who has lost us? God has lost us. And so, though sinners are under the curse of God, they are matter of interest to Him still, considering sinners as His lost. God's lost—not so lost as to be out of His mind and concern—He has sent His Son, and the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost. O sinner! lay it to heart. Thy conversion, perhaps, concerns thee little: thy conversion concerns thy God much. You love death, that is, you love sin so well as to take it, death and all, and keep it, death and all, and you little care about returning to God from whom you have gone away. But God cares. Mark this: if you be not converted, or turned, you die; God will pay you the wages of sin—death. But He says He has no pleasure in it; that He prefers conversion to death. Lay this to heart, sinner, that thou must be converted or damned, and that God prefers thy conversion to thy damnation. You will observe that David, in this Psalm, praying for the restoration of the joy of God's salvation, urges this as a motive, and let believers in their penitence make use of it too:—"Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto Thee." David therefore knew that God was interested in the conversion of sinners, how otherwise would he make such a vow?