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Counsels to the Young.
Oh place not too fondly, my daughter, thy trust
Pour out thy affections on nothing beneath:
Yet, vain are my counsels, — the youthful and free,
Said I't was their nature? Yes, daughter, but thou,
As sunlight will steal from the roses their hue,
When a blight lurks beneath their fair foldings of dew, —
As streams from the mountains unceasingly glide
Till their waters are mingled with ocean's blue tide, —
So riseth to heaven life's perishless part,
Then peace, oh my daughter, whatever thy lot, —
Beams the sunshine of fortune upon thee or not, —
Peace, peace, to tby heart, for the dreams of its love
Will be blest with a holy fulfilment above. i. H. X. Art. XXVII.
The Truth of God, illustrated by its associations in the Scriptures.
Truth is one of the divine perfections. It implies the perfect rectitude of all God's counsels and purposes, and the certain accomplishment of them. The truth of God necessarily implies also his immutability, — that he is of one mind, without variableness or the shadow of turning. In relation to his purposes, the truth of God is uniform and eternal; and can therefore receive no accession, nor suffer any diminution. He relinquishes none of his purposes; they are established forever; and he forms no new designs: either of which would imply imperfection and change. He may reveal more or less of his purposes, according to his wisdom and pleasure; but this supposes no alteration in them; because their existence and the certain accomplishment of them, do not depend on their being communicated. Their truth, or the certainty of their fulfilment, cannot be affected by human knowledge or ignorance. The sun shines not the less because men shut their eyes on its light, or are so situated that they perceive it not. The Deity, in his disposition and character, is not less amiable, because in consequence of the darkened understandings and the guilty passions and practices of men, he appears to them clothed in frowns and terrors, as an enemy and an avenger.
That all God's counsels and purposes are infinitely benevolent, is, we believe, not questioned by any; for it is universally admitted that infinite goodness is an essential attribute of the Deity; and with this principle of his nature, any evil or injurious design would be utterly inconsistent. The truth of this position—the benevolence of all God's purposes, — is not denied even by those who hold it as a truth, that he, from all eternity, fore-ordained some men and angels to everlasting death. They argue that God saw this to be the best method to secure the greatest good of the whole, and to display most gloriously, and in the best possible manner, his infinite goodness and benevolence. We are shocked at such theological absurdities, though they have prevailed for ages. But they are yielding, they are retiring, the time of their final departure is at hand: 'Blessed be the God of truth.'
Can there be any doubi whether the divine counsels and purposes will be accomplished? No: there can in reason be none; for the truth and faithfulness of God are pledged for their fulfilment. And here is the proper foundation of confidence and joy. Hence the prophet Isaiah says, 'O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee; I will praise thy name: for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.' Again, by the same prophet the Lord Jehovah saitlj,— ' I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.' The apostle speaks of the immutability of God's counsel as affording strong consolation. To the Ephesians he speaks of the 'manifold wisdom of God' being made known, —' according to his eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord,' And again, he declares the object and the extent of this purpose, as follows: 'That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.' Most worthy and glorious purpose! How ample; how divinely benevolent; and how certain its accomplishment! for 'Behold, the strength of Israel will not lie nor repent.' To show with how firm a confidence we may rely upon the divine declarations and promises, whatever opposing circumstances may occur, St. Paul says, ' For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith,'—- that is, the fathfulness or truth — 'of God of none effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar.'
An important inquiry here arises; namely — Can any part of the truth of God, lounded in his eternal purpose and the good pleasure of his will, be undesirable, or fail to excite the admiration and the joy of all intelligent beings to whom it shall he communicated, and its final results made known? To answer this in the affirmative, would be to impeach the wisdom and benevolence of the divine counsels and government. We hold therefore that the truth of God in relation to all objects and events, is holy, just, and good; and consequently that its entire accomplishment will be matter of infinite joy, gratitude and praise, to all created intelligences. But what then becomes of the doctrine of unending punishment and torture? To say nothing of the wretched subjects of such suffering, — can its infliction be desirable to God or to the holy angels? Or, can it be believed that christians, in a future state, will rejoice in view of it? If they shall, they must indeed experience a great change from their present views and feelings; and a change not for the better; for with what principle of holiness or benevolence, is a delight in the sufferings of others, consistent? The very idea is abhorrent to every virtuous sentiment and feeling. It has been strangely said, — yes, it has been very often affirmed with great confidence,— that the saints in heaven will forever rejoice and triumph in beholding the torments of the damned in hell! Is this to be one of the effects of their perfection in holiness and benevolence? and one ingredient mingled in the cup of immortal joys?
We proceed, now, to notice the Scripture associations of the truth of God. With what is this divine perfection usually united in the inspired writings? This is an interesting inquiry, and will, 1 trust, be exceedingly satisfactory; because its immediate connection is with the most excellent and amiable qualities, as mercy, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and the like; and it is never found associated with hatred, wrath, or vengeance.
We will illustrate this proposition by some examples, out of a vast many.which might be cited, from both the Old and New Testaments.
Observe the language of the patriarch Jacob's grateful acknowledgment: 'O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant.' To Moses the Lord proclaimed himself as 'the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth? The Psalmist says, 'All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.1 Again: 'Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious; long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.' 'Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne, mercy and truth shall go before thy face.' '1 have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy loving kindness and tby truth from the great congregation.' 'The Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations.' 'Thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth above the clouds.' 'Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake.' The prophet Isaiah adores and praises the name of the Lord, in the consideration that his 'counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.' A remarkable passage occurs in the prophecy of Jeremiah, where the Lord by the prophet, after declaring the evils and miseries which should come upon Jerusalem, and which are represented as the effects of his anger and fury poured out upon the inhabitants for their wickedness, says,— 'Behold I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.' And then, as an explanation of this promise, he says, 'And I will cleanse them from all their iniquities, and there shall be heard in this place, the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, — the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts; for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth forever.'
Associations of the same kind are found in the New Testament; which the following examples will show, and which cannot fail to be highly satisfactory. Jesus Christ declares himself to be 'the way, the truth, and the life;' because by bim the knowledge and grace of God have been eminently revealed, and life and immortality brought to light. He is styled 'the only begotten of the Father; full of grace and truth.' And to show the pre-eminence of the Christian revelation, when compared with the former or legal dispensation, St. John says, ' And of his (Christ's) fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.' St. Paul to the Romans says, 'Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God ;' which he explains by saying, 'to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.' To the Ephesians, speaking of the 'fulness of times' when all things shall be gathered together in Christ, he says — 'That we should be to the praise of his glory who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.'