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exception: for there never was a year since the flood in which there was no harvest throughout the world. To understand the promise of God's engaging never to afAict any particular nation, or number of nations, with famine, is to make it universal as to place, as well as uninterrupted in respect to time; and this would go to insure a harvest to the sluggard who refuses to sow.
Prov. xxvi. 4. Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest thou also be like unto him. Prov. xxvi. 3. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest
he be wise in his own conceit.
A "fool,” in the sense of Scripture, means a wicked man, or one that acts contrary to the wisdom that is from above, and who is supposed to utter his foolishness in speech or writing. Doubtless, there are diferent descriptions of these characters; and some may require to be answered, while others are best treated with silence. But the cases here seem to be one: both have respect to the same character, and both require to be answered. The whole difference lies in the manner in which the answer should be given. The terms, “according to his folly," in the first instance, means in a foolish manner, as is manifest from the reason given; “lest thou also be like unto him." But in the second instance they mean, in the manner which his folly requires. This also is plain from the reason given, “est he be wise in his own conceit.” A foolislı speech is not a rule for our imitation; nevertheless our answer must be so framed by it, as to meet and repel it.
Both these proverbs caution us against evils to which we are not a little addicted; the first, that of saying and doing to others as they say and do to us, rather than as we would they should say and do; the last, that of suffering the cause of truth or justice to be run down, while we from a love of ease, stand by as unconcerned spectators.
The first of these proverbs is exemplified in the answer of Moses to the rebellious Israelites; the last in that of Job to his wife. It was a foolish speech which was addressed to the former: “Would God, that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?" Unhappily, this provoked Moses to speak unadvisedly with his lips; saying, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” This was answering folly in a foolish manner, which he should not have done; and by which the servant of God became but too much like them whom he opposed. It was also a foolish saying of Job's wife, in the day of his distress: “Curse God, and die!” Job answered this speech, not in the manner of it, but in the manner which it required. “What, shall we receive good at the hand of God; and shall we not receive evil?" In all the answers of our Savior to the scribes and pharisees, we may perceive that he never lost the possession of his soul for a single moment; never answered in the manner of his opponents, so as to be like unto them: but neither did he decline to repel their folly, and so to abase their self-conceit.
Gal. ii. 16. By the works of the law shall no flesh liv.
ing be justified. James ii. 21. Was not Abraham, our father, justified
Paul treats of the justification of the ungodly, or the way in which sinners are accepted of God, and made heirs of eternal life. James speaks of the justification of the godly, or in what way it becomes evident that a man is approved of God. The former is by the righteousness of Christ: the latter is by works. The former of these is that which justifies: the latter is that by which it appears that we are justified. The term justification in the first of these passages is taken in a primary sense: in the last it is taken in a secondary sense only, as in Matt. xi. 19, and other places.
Exodus xx. 5. I the Lord thy God am a jealous Gody
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate
Ezekiel xviii. 20. The soul that sinneth, it shall die:
the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.
NEITHER of these passages appear to be applicable to men, as the individual subjects of God's nioral government, and with respect to a future world; but merely as members of society in the present life. Nations, and oth er communities, as such, are considered in the Divine administration as persons. That which is done by them at one period, is visited upon them at another; as the history of Israel, and of all other nations evinces. The effects of the conduct of every generation not being confined to itself, but extended to their posterity, would in proportion as they were possessed of natural affection, furnish a powerful motive to righteousness; and to them who sinned, prove an aggravation to their pun. ishment.
This part of Divine Providence was objected to in the times of Ezekiel as unjust. “The fathers (said they) have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge, the ways of the Lord are not equal.” To this objection, two things were suggested in reply:
1. That though it was so that the sins from the times of Manasseh fell upon that generation, yet there was no injustice in it; but, on the contrary, much mercy: for what they bore was no more than what their own sins deserved: and its not having been inflicted before, was owing to Divine forbearance. God might have punished both their fathers and them. Hence, “As I live, said the Lord, ye shall not have occasion any to use this proverb in Israel, the soul that sinneth it shall die!” Which is as if he had said, I will no more forbear with you as I have done; but will punish both father and son, instead of the son only. Ezekiel xviii. 1-4.
2. That if the sins of the fathers fell upon the children, it was not without the children having adopted, and persisted in their fathers' crimes. The visiting
of the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation, is only of them that hate him; that is, where the fathers hate him, and the children tread in the fathers' steps. If Judah in the times of Ezekiel had been righteous, they had not gone into captivity for what was done in the times of Manasseh.
Gen. xiii. 17. Arise, walk through the land: for I wilt
give it unto thee. Gen. xxiii. 17, 18. And the field of Ephron, which was
in Machpelah; the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees which were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure
unto Abraham, for a possession. Acts vii. 5. He gave him non inheritance in it, no not
so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him.
The first of these passages is the language of promise: the last intimates that the promise was not performed to Abraham, but reserved for his posterity. It is true, he purchased a burying ground of the sons of Heth, according to the second passage: but that could hardly be called ground “to set his foot on," which expresses an idea different from that of a place to lay his bones in; and much less an inheritance of God's giving him, to set his foot on. His having to purchase even a grave, was rather a proof that he was considered as a stranger, than of his being a native of the soil. An inheritance given of God he had not: that only was such which his poster
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