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indeed very perspicuously the difference between that arbitrary capricious tyranny, which we abhor to think of in connexion with the divine sovereignty, but which we are most unjustly, supposed to maintain; and that just and equitable and wise and holy sovereignty which we ascribe to God; except that no example from human affairs can give an adequate view of the perfection of all the decrees and dispensations of Jehovah.
'God might have acted in this manner, had his 'only attribute been that of almighty power. But 'the question is, whether such a conduct would 'have been consistent with infinite justice and 'infinite mercy, which every Christian acknow'ledges to be attributes of the Deity.''
'Almighty power,' if it could possibly exist apart from justice, wisdom, truth, and love, would be as dreadful and odious, as the divine character is adorable and lovely: but how could God ' have a 'right, founded on the uncontrollable will of the 'Creator over his creatures,' to adopt a conduct, concerning which there can reasonably be a question whether it would be ' consistent with infinite * justice and infinite mercy ?'—" The Lord is righ"teous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." "Clouds and darkness are round about him; righ"teousness and judgment are the basis of his "throne." 2 Many absolute princes, indeed, have taken the liberty, and claimed the privilege, of being unjust; yet no power can give a right to do what is wrong: and our almighty Sovereign
'Ps. xcvii. 2. JT3D from p, to establish, to prepare.
"cannot lie," "he cannot deny himself." Indeed the word right is wholly improper for the subject; being as distinct from power as the authority of a lawful prince, legally exercised, is from the lawless dominion of a successful usurper; yet his Lordship strangely seems to confound them in his reasonings. The Lord indeed " doeth accord"ing to his will, in the army of heaven, and among "the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay "his hand, or say to him, What doest thou?" But "the King's power loveth judgment:" and surely it is unmeaning to speak of a right to do what it is impossible should ever be done.
'Could a just and merciful God endow men 'with the admirable faculties of perception and 'reason, place them in a transitory world abound
* ing with enjoyments and temptations, and, by an 'arbitrary and irreversible decree, deny them the 'means of escaping everlasting torment in a life
* to come ?'l
If God had made man as he now is, this reasoning might be admitted: but, if" God made man ** in his own image" and pronounced him " very "good;" and if man by wilful apostacy and rebellion became very wicked, even so as to resemble the devil in all the grand outlines of his^ character; and if one generation after another wilfully repeats and perpetuates the original rebellion; the whole of the argument falls to the ground. The doctrine of the fall and of original sin (one main subject of the first Book,) is here completely lost sight of; and, by a similar method of arguing, if 1 Ref. 269.
we should speak of fallen angels as the creatures of God, and leave the reader to suppose that he made them what they .now are, without taking in the consideration of their wilful apostacy; something very plausible might be adduced, either against the dealings of God with them, or against the scriptural doctrine concerning them. If it would not have been consistent with all the divine perfections to have left the whole of the fallen human race without a Redeemer, or ' the means of escaping' "the wrath to come," then, it must be repeated, and steadily maintained as undeniable, that the whole plan of redemption, and all its component parts, concerning which the sacred writers speak almost in rapturous language, of "the praise ofthe glory of God's grace," of "love that passeth "knowledge," " of the riches of his glory, &c." was in feet nothing more than a provision due to us, which could not have been honourably withheld; a kind of honourable amends for the terror occasioned to us. "The ministration of condem"nation is glorious:" though the "ministration "of righteousness," and " of the Spirit," " exceeds "in glory." If this had not been so, there would indeed in our case be no display of pardoning mercy and saving grace, any more than there is in the Lord's dispensations towards fallen angels: and, had he not, either in the case of fallen man, or in some other instance, displayed this glorious and endearing attribute; it might have been supposed that the perfection of his justice and holiness excluded the possibility of shewing mercy to rebels and enemies. This is then the grand display of the divine glory in the gospel, "a just God and "a Saviour :" but this glory implies, that he might consistently have withheld what now, "to the "praise of the glory of his grace," he imparts; or he might have selected other objects for the display of his glorious mercy and grace; and have glorified his justice in punishing men, according to their deservings.'l
'If any inconsistency with these perfections 'appears in any proposed system, we need not 'hesitate to pronounce the system false and 'groundless.'2
The appearance of inconsistency with the divine perfections, in respect of any doctrine deduced from the sacred scriptures, may be, and commonly is, owing to our partial or prejudiced minds, or our scanty information, or our mistaken notions. Nothing indeed can be true, as to the divine appointments, which is really inconsistent with the moral perfections of God: but almost every part of revealed truth appears to numbers inconsistent with them; one part to this description of men, and another to that description. "The preaching of the cross is foolishness to them "that perish." Some argue against the history of the creation, and the fall of man; others against the dealings of God with the Egyptians, Canaanites, and Amalekites; others contend in like manner against the future and eternal punishment of the wicked; others against the mystery of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the atonement,
1 Arbitrary, see Book I. chap. ii. sect. 18. On the gift of God irrespective: also chap. i. sect. 4. Oh the case of the Gentiles. 'Ref. 259.
regeneration, justification by faith, and salvation by grace; but all under the supposition, that the doctrine or dispensation against which they contend, appears inconsistent with the divine perfections, or with some of them. But is this reasoning conclusive i Man is a child, an ignorant, erring creature; he mistakes appearances for realities in every thing. Man is a sinner, a party concerned, under the dominion of self-love; and, as a criminal, must, in self-vindication, be tempted to think that the dreadful sentence of the Judge appears too rigorous, or even unjust. Who is there among us that has lived many years in the world, and not seen through the delusive appearances which once imposed on him? We have all, no doubt, still our prejudices undiscovered by us; for if we once discovered them they would cease to be our prejudices. The appeal then is and must be, "To "the law and to the testimony:" he who refuses to believe the express and plain testimony of God, because to his partial and purblind reason it appears inconsistent with some divine perfection, believes in his own reasonings, and not in the word of God; and refuses to believe God, if his own understanding will not vouch for the truth of what he says. And the less he 'hesitates to pro'nounce the doctrine or system,' which he cannot prove to be unscriptural, groundless or false, the less of the humility and docility of a little child is manifested.
'The known attributes of God, collectively 'taken, as they are declared in scripture, and man'ifested in the works of creation, can alone guide 'us to truth, in our disquisitions concerning his