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then is fit to do it? Who can do it? Or shall there be no plan, and every thing be left to lawless contingence! Shall these heavens cease to declare the glory of God, and this firmament to show his handy work ? Shall the suns and systems of this fair universe cease to roll and shine ? or wheel their circuits through the mazes of an interminable chaos? Or shall the minds, that God has made, as the brighter image of His own intelligence and immortality, be alone exempt from the control of their Creator? Shall He have power to
turn the rivers of water," and none to “turn the hearts of kings ? power to still the “noise of the seas,” and none to still “ the tumult of the people?'' -power to make plagues and earthquakes subservient to His purposes, and none to “ make the wrath of man to praise him ?”
To exempt the hearts and actions of men from the dominion of the infinite mind, is to consign this world to sin, and darkness, and wo, without remedy. If this world were but one hour old, who would be afraid to trust its management in the hands of Him that made it ? To whose hands could it be so safely committed? Why then should we discard, or reluctantly admit the doctrine of Jehovah's eternal purposes ? Let us rather shout with angels, “ Alleluia! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
And let it not be preposterously and presumptuously said, that the divine purposes make men mere machines. Every man is conscious that he is free. He knows, by a direct appeal to his own boson, that his liberty is not destroyed, nor impaired, by the purposes of God; and it involves a strange mystery, indeed, to affirm that the unchanging determination of Heaven that all men shall be free agents, subverts their freedom.
3. The certainty of final salvation to true believers is a reasonable doctrine, grounded on the immutable truth of God, as implied in the promises of the new covenant. These promises of the unchanging God must be fulfilled. Every real saint, therefore, will certainly be upheld, I do not say in constant obedience, but so upheld in faith and holiness, as to be saved.
Is this doctrine denied, because it is supposed to interfere with moral agency ? Cannot the moral liberty of the saint be secured, without putting at everlasting hazard his soul and his salvation ? Ask the humble Christian ; when he prays for upholding grace, does he feel that he is asking God to take away his freedom ? He feels no such difficulty.
Look now at the dreadful result to which this objection leads. If there are no promises of unfailing support to the believer, then any individual saint is liable to become a reprobate, and perish. If one is thus liable, so is another ; so is a third ; so is the whole number of the faithful. What then becomes of the precious promises made by our Saviour? On the above supposition, there is no security that he will be with his ministers, or that he will have ministers, to the end of the world. There is no security that he will have a church at any future period. Nay, there is no security that another child of Adam will ever be saved. Nor does the difficulty stop here : if saints on earth, in order to be free, must be liable to fall away and perish : for the same reason, there can be no such thing as confirmed holiness and happiness in
teda say that I suspend read
heaven. Let the validity of this objection be admitted there, and what dismay must it spread through that world of light! Who could say that Paul will not lose his crown, and drop from his shining station ; and Gabriel suspend his notes of praise, to become a rebel and a reprobate ; and the defection spread around the throne of God, till not a saint or seraph is left to strike the song of Moses and the Lamb! Admit the sentiment, that God cannot consistently make promises of upholding grace to his people, or that it is possible for Him or His promises to change, and the covenant of grace loses all its stability; you turn the charter of the church into a blank ; you spoil the Christian's Bible ; you take away his rock, and set him on a wave; you leave him no solid foundation for either faith, joy, or hope.
4. When God is said to repent, it implies no change in His character or purposes. As the parent accommodates his language to the capacity of his child, so God, in condescension to human weakness, speaks of himself in terms adapted to our conceptions. Hence we read of his arm, his hand, his eye. So when he changes his dealings, it is said that he repents, because, in men, a change of conduct usually proceeds from a change of purpose. The Bible is not a system of metaphysics : it is a plain book, designed to teach the sublime truths of religion, in language most familiar to the understandings of men. Hence, when we are told that God repents, it implies no mutability, no defect of goodness or wisdom, no niistake or disappointment; it merely implies that he varies his dispensations, according to the character of moral agents; or in other words, that he changes his conduct towards changing creatures.
5. The immutability of God is no discouragement to prayer, but the best ground of encouragement. The inference has been a thousand times drawn, that it must be vain for us to pray, because our petitions can produce no change in God. This inference is as repugnant to sound reasoning, as it is to the precepts of the Bible, and the spirit of piety. If Jehovah were fickle, like earthly monarchs, then, indeed, it would be vain to pray. No one could ever know with what services he would be pleased, or on what terms his favor might be obtained. You do not trust in a fickle man; and how could you trust in a fickle God? But as the case is, there can be no uncertainty. Eternal truth is pledged, that the humble, contríte, praying soul shall be blessed ; and that they who cast off fear, and restrain prayer, shall be destroyed. Can stronger motives to duty be offered ? The answer of prayer implies no change in the mind of God. Still a change of moral temper in us, may prepare the way for a change in his treatment of us. Such a change in us, every prayer, offered in the spirit of the Gospel, supposes: and, therefore, such a prayer an immutable God may be expected to hear in mercy.
6. The unchangeable perfection of God, is a doctrine full of comfort to his people. This world, with all its concerns, bears the stamp of mutability. It furnishes no objects on which the good man may safely fix his affections,
or repose his hopes of happiness. Can he confide in himself? His own heart, alas, is too treacherous to be trusted. His best purposes, his best joys, are inconstant. To-day, perhaps, he meets God, in the sanctuary; meets God, at the communion-table; meets God, in the closet ;-has some soulrefreshing views of his glory, and rises almost to the ecstacy of an angel. To-morrow, he sinks again into darkness, and is a poor worm of the earth. Some interposing cloud of unbelief shuts him away from God, his spirit droops, his heart becomes cold, his comforts die.-And is he the only inconstant man, among the followers of Christ? Around him he sees all, all is fluctuation. Some whom he deemed shining Christians, turned apostates ; churches, once distinguished for their attachment to pure religion, sunk into pernicious errors ; pulpits, where Mathers and Whitefields prayed and preached, occupied by men who “ deny the Lord that bought them.” Nay, if he extend his view to remoter periods, he sees the churches, which were planted by Paul and his illustrious associates, become extinct; and the very spot where the Saviour died for the redemption of men, now to be rescued from the grossest darkness, by missionaries of the cross from distant countries !
And if stability is not found in the concerns of religion itself, shall he expect to find it in mere earthly objects? Here his brightest prospects are liable to be suddenly overcast. To-day, perhaps, finds him in prosperity, clasping some beloved object to his heart; to-morrow may tear away that object, and wring that heart with agony. Ask the aged man whose eyes are dim with years, who looks around him to find the associates of his youthful days, and they are all gone to the grave,—does he doubt that this world is mutable ? Ask the man of business, one hour possessed of a princely estate, and the next, thrust down to bankruptcy and beggary,—does he doubt that this world is mutable? Ask the weeping mother, who bends over the dying pillow of her son ; while she sees the object of her fondest cares and hopes smitten with a deadly disease, and the face that lately bloomed with health, covered with a mortal paleness,—does she doubt that this world is mutable ? Ah! brethren, this is a changing world. Its history, indeed, is but a history of changes. "As for man,” its noblest inhabitant, “his days are as grass, as the flower of the field so he flourisheth, the wind passeth over it, and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more." Heroes that made the earth tremble, have gone down to the grave. Families, that in the arrogance of pride and power, exacted the homage of millions, have been forgotten. Cities, renowned as seats of learning, arts, and opulence, have fallen into ruins. Such this world has been, and such it will be, till that last, great change, which shall close all the changes of time, “ when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.”
Amid these scenes of fluctuation, is there no object then in heaven or earth that is unchanging? Yes, one : God is unchanging. Here is stability.
“ His band the good man fastens on the skies,
God is his happiness, therefore his happiness is certain and everlasting. What though earthly comforts are transitory, earthly friends frail and changeable ; God is a friend, sincere, unfailing, almighty. While his judgments fill the wicked with dismay, “there is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God.” While his thunder rends the heavens, he whispers peace to his people. Tempest and uproar may sweep over the earth, but the church will live, will triumph : her God is unchanging, and He has said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. “ The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us ; the God of Jacob is our refuge : therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea ; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Blessed, O Lord of Hosts, is the man that trusteth in thee.”'
Lastly; The immutability of God is a doctrine full of terror to his enemies. To each of you, my impenitent hearers, this subject speaks with alarming authority. You have a controversy with Jehovah. This controversy cannot cease, without a change in Him, or in you. He cannot change, for the least alteration in his character would mar its perfection, and subvert his moral government. You will not change, for you are supremely in love with sin. What must be the result of this controversy? I tremble to declare a truth so awful, and yet so certain ;-it must be your eternal ruin, if you remain at enmity with God. How can it be otherwise? The wheel of Divine government moves steadily forward. You, an insect, dare to take your stand before it, to oppose its progress; and shall you not be crushed ? Why will you suspend your only hope of safety on impossibility ? Can you escape Omniscience? Can you resist Omnipotence? Can you imagine that He who is immutably holy and true, will cease to abhor, or forget to punish sin? No ;-you must turn to God, by timely and true repentance, or, I say again, you are certainly, you are eternally undone. Though now his vengeance slumbers, he has wrath in store for the ungodly. “ Hath he said, and shall he not do it ? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good ?” “ The vieked are reserved to the day of destruction, they shall be brought forth ta tire day of wrath ; the zeal of the Lord of Hosts shall do this."
THE NATURE AND REASONABLENESS OF SUBMISSION TO GOD.
II KINGS, vii. 3, 4.- And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the
gate; and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? If we say, we will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there, and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians : if they save us alive, we shall live ; and if they kill us, we shall but die.
state, sees of aping death thaves were truly
This resolution was formed by men, whose lives were truly in jeopardy. They saw no more prospect of escaping death than the sinner, who is deeply convicted of his lost state, sees of escaping the everlasting wrath of a holy God. These men were Israelites, belonging to Samaria, and lived in the wicked reign of Jehoram, the son of Ahab. Provoked by the sins of Israel, God raised up Benhadad, king of Syria, as his rod of correction ; who came with an army and besieged Samaria. He continued the blockade until he brought on a famine in the city, which threatened all the inhabitants with death. Instances occurred in which mnothers laid violent hands upon theirchildren to satisfy the cravings of hunger in their families. At this awful juncture, there were in Israel four men infected with the plague of leprosy; and according to the law of Moses, they were commanded, being unclean, to dwell alone without the camp. Their situation was more deplorable than that of those who remained in the city, as they had fewer sources of help.
That eminent prophet, Elisha, was at this time in Samaria, a witness of this appalling scene of suffering and distress, and was even charged, by the wicked king of Israel, as being instrumental of it all. When this famine was at its height, and when death, in the most frightful form, seemingly was about to enter every house, Elisha boldly prophesied, that there would be an abundant supply for the sufferers, the next day; an event which then appeared impossible. Addressing the people with a loud voice, he said, “ Thus saith the Lord; To. morrow, about this time, shall' a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.” This drew forth a scoffing reply from a man, on whose hand the king leaned, who daringly insinuated, that if the Lord would make windows in heaven, such a thing could not be. “Behold,” said the man of God, “ thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof." All this was fulfilled the following day.
The four lepers, at the gate, not knowing what the prophet had said, and viewing death to be certain, whether they went into the city, or abode where they were, adopted the remarkable resolution in the text. They said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? If we say, we will enter into the city,