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derful these should not be at all mentioned, in so expressly stating the way of salvation by the gospel.
"Were it otherwise, the hardened sinner would - be confounded with the humble penitent; there
would be no distinction between those, “the 'imagination of whose hearts is only evil con
tinually," and those whose “ delight is in the commandments of God.”]
“ There is,” saith the apostle,“ no difference; “ for all have sinned and come short of the glory “of God: being justified freely by his grace, “ through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”2 “ I will put my laws into their mind, and I will “ write them in their hearts." 3 " A new heart “ also will I give you, and I will put a new Spirit “ within you; and I will take away the stony “ heart out of your flesh, and I will give you “ a heart of flesh; and I will put my Spirit with“ in you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, « and ye shall keep my judgments and do them."4 “ For who maketh thee to differ from another?"5 The two scriptures, which are referred to in the quotation, evidently relate, the first, to what man is by nature, and the second, to what believers are “ by the grace of God.” An important difference there is, but the whole glory of making it is due to divine grace; inclining and enabling the believer to do, what was before his bounden duty; but which he had not the disposition, and 'consequently not the ability,' to perform. Ref. 261.
Rom. iii. 22-25. • Jer.xxxi. 31–33. Heb. viii. 10–12. Ez. xxxvi. 26, 27. * I Cor. iv. 7. Gen. vi. 5. Ps. cxix. 47, 70. Rom. vii. 22.
“ 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.'1
* 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,
· Arbitrary, see Book I. chap. ii. sect. 18. On the gift of God irrespective: also chap. i. sect. 4. On 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: 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 manifested in the works of creation, can alone guide us to truth, in our disquisitions concerning his
- designs in the formation of man; and the exchu
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 contenipt of
every principle of justice and mercy: others we see studious only to act according to the rigid
rules of justice, without attending to the calls of 'merey: a few we may see yielding to the mo 'mentary impulse of compassion without regard ‘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 dietates 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 attributes.'1
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;
'Ref. 260, 261.
6 yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”l_“That “ in the ages to come, he might shew the ex“ ceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness to“ wards 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.”—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 substance of the message, and then, from what we · Prov. xvi. 4. Eph. ii. 7. j. 10, 11. Rom, v. 20. VOL. VIII.