« AnteriorContinuar »
'designs in the formation of man; and the exehi'sive consideration of a single attribute has been 'the common source of difference of opinion 'among the learned upon this interesting subject. 'Divines seem to argue concerning the Deity, 'from what they observe to take place among 'men. It is indeed true that we too often see 'those, whose lot it is to govern their fellow crea'tures, exercise their power in utter contempt of 'every principle of justice and mercy: others ire' 'see studious only to act according to the rigid 'rules of justice, without attending to the calls of 'mercy: a few we may see yielding to the mo'mentary impulse of compassion without regartt'ing the claims of justice: and even the wisest 'and most conscientious of men are frequently at 'a loss to devise the means of acting in strict 'conformity both to the essential laws of jus'tice, and to the milder dictates of merey. All 'this necessarily belongs to the nature of a frail 'and imperfect being: but the Deity, whose 'ways are not as men's ways, is entirely free 'from every defect and limitation of this kind. 'With Him there is no opposition, no clashing, 'no difficulty. His dispensations are the result 'of the concurrent operation of his perfect attri'butes.'l
The attributes of God, however made known, are not exclusively, or even principally, our guides in these disquisitions: for his express declarations must mainly be attended to, concerning what he has done, and what he will do; and concerning the motives and objects of his decrees and dispensations. "The Lord made all things for himself; 1 Ref. 260,261.
"yea, even the wicked for the day of evil."1—"That "in the ages to come, he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us through Jesus Christ."—" To the "intent, that now unto the principalities and "powers, in heavenly places might be known, by "the church, the manifold wisdom of God; ac"cording to the eternal purpose, which he "purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."2—The historical part of scripture, as far as the divine conduct is concerned, illustrates the information given concerning the perfections of God; and the doctrinal and preceptive part of the sacred oracles gives us instruction concerning a variety of particulars, in which we should otherwise have remained ignorant, or have been bewildered in error. "The law entered that the offence might "abound; but where sin abounded grace did "much -more abound."3 We should scarcely have discovered this end, which God proposed in giving the law, by abstract reasonings on his moral perfections.—The whole of the reasoning in these pages is highly objectionable. The way in which doctrines are to be deduced and established, according to it, seems to be this. We are set to speculate on what we should suppose would naturally and necessarily follow from certain acknowledged attributes of God, and thence to frame our doctrinal opinions, instead of submitting to be taught them by the direct and "sure "testimony of God" himself. • It is evident 'that, in carrying on the examination, (of the sub* stance of the message, and then, from what we 1 Prov. xvi. 4. 'Eph. ii. 7. iii. 10, 11. • Rom. v. 20. VOL. VIII. O
'know of the person from whom it professed to 'come, judging whether it was probable such a 'message would be sent by him,) we might be 'subject to great uncertainty. The professed 'author of the communication may live at such a 'distance from us, that we may never have it in 'our power to verify his message by any personal 'conversation with him. We may be so far 'ignorant of his character and designs, as to be 'unqualified to judge of the kind of communica'tion that should proceed from him. To estif mate aright the probable authenticity of the 'message would require an acquaintance with his 'plans, and views, and circumstances, of which 'we may not be in possession. We may bring 'the greatest degree of sagacity to this investiga'tion: but then the highest sagacity is of no'avail, 'when there is an insufficiency of data. Our in'genuity may be unbounded: but then we may 'want materials. The principle which we assume 'may be untrue in itself, and therefore fallacious in 'its application.—This applies in all its parts to a • message from God.'1 The able writer of this quotation applies it indeed to the evidence of the message . as coming from God; but it is equally conclusive at least, in respect of the nature and real import of a message allowed to have been sent by him.
'It (Redemption) vindicates the justice of God, 'by making every one who disobeys his laws 'liable to death and punishment; and it is com'patible with his mercy, inasmuch as it provides 'the means of avoiding the punishment due to 'wilful disobedience. This is not done by a ca'pricious revocation of the sentence pronounced, 'by an unconditional offer of pardon, or by any 'weak or inadequate compromise. A full satis'faction and complete atonement for the sins of 'the whole world are found in the precious blood * of the eternal and only-begotten Son of God: 'but even this sacrifice, inestimable as it is, and 'universal as it may be, does not necessarily pro'cure salvation for men; much remains to be 'done by themselves, before they can have any 'share in the benefits of their Redeemer's death.'' "The law is holy, just, and good," and its awful sentence most righteous; and this apart from redemption; which indeed was intended to render the rich mercy of God consistent with his glorious justice, in the salvation of sinners. The words 'compatible with his mercy' may be compared with those of the apostle on the same subject. "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein "he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In "whom we have redemption through his blood, "the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches "of his grace, wherein he hath abounded towards "us in all wisdom and prudence."2 The grand end of redemption is the display of the glory of God, especially the glory of his mercy and grace; and to render this compatible with the glory of his justice.3—Much indeed 'remains to be done 'by us,' that we may partake of the salvation of the gospel; and, in order to this, much must be done in us, by the new creating Spirit of God. We " must be born again;" we must be ' quick'Ref. 261. 5 Eph. i. 6—8. * Rom. iii. 25, 26.
1 Dr. Chalmers.
'ened from the death of sin to the life of righ'teousness.' "By grace are ye saved, through "faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift "of God; not of works lest any man should "boast: for we are his workmanship, created in" "Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has "before ordained that we should walk in them."' 'Let us beseech him,' therefore, * to grant us true 'repentance and his Holy Spirit:' and, while we own and attend to the duty of " working out our "own salvation with fear and trembling," let us not forget that " it is God who worketh in us both "to will and to do, of his good pleasure."2 'The 'condition of man, after the fall of Adam is such, 'that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his 'own natural strength and good works, to faith 'and calling upon God: wherefore we have no 'power to do good works pleasant and acceptable 'to God, without the grace of God by Christ pre'venting us that we may have a good will, and 'working with us when we have that will.'3—' It
* is acknowledged, that man has not the disposi'tion, and consequently not the ability, to do 'what is good in the sight of God, till he is influ'enced by the Spirit of Christ.'4 The doctrine of the Holy Spirit, 'who sanctifieth all the elect
* people of God,' and by whose sacred and omnipotent operation a new creation is wrought, and sinners are made both willing and able to repent, believe, love, and obey, is so important a part of the plan of salvation; and his work in the heart, by which one man is made to differ from another, is so essential a part of salvation itself; that it is won\ Eph. ii. 8—10. 'Phil. ii. 12, 13. 'Art. x. 'Ref. 61.