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than to behold evil.” So that he is declared to be both infinitely holy in his nature, and unalterably righteous in his government of the world: for “ God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the “ Lord revengeth and is furious; he will take ven
geance on his adversaries.”! We are indeed told by speculating men, that such expressions are only an accommodation to human infirmity, and that there are no such passions in the divine nature: and, if such remarks were intended merely to direct our interpretation of them, and to remind us, that all that perturbation which anger and revenge excite in our minds, and all those effects which flow from it, should be excluded from our apprehensions of the Deity, they would be very proper. But surely the only wise God knows best what language to use concerning himself! and we may safely“ speak ac
cording to his oracles.” Abhorrence of evil, and indignation against evil doers, are not sinful passions, but are requisite to perfect holiness; and to execute vengeance on criminals is the indispenble duty of a ruler. We pretend not to explain how these things subsist in the divine mind: but we know who has said, “ Vengeance is mine, and I “will recompense:” and we hesitate not to repeat his words, without attempting to explain away their awful import.
When we add to this delineation the enlarged goodness and liberality of the Lord, who delighteth in communicating being and blessedness, and “ openeth his hand to fill all things living with
plenteousness ;” we perceive a character com
| Nah. i. 2-6.
pletely amiable, adorable, and glorious; and must allow the reasonableness of the command, “ Thou “shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, “and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, “ and with all thy strength.” Yet these perfections thus combined, though peculiarly encouraging to all obedient creatures, are most tremendous to sinners; who must be alarmed, and verge to despair, in proportion as they become acquainted with them ; unless they attend to the discovery of the Lord's plenteous, rich, and everlasting mercy. But mercy respects misery, and transgression as the cause of it: it pities and relieves misery, and pardons sin; and without this attribute, even the providential goodness of God would tend to aggravate our guilt, and increase our condemnation. Mercy, therefore, is spoken of in scripture, as the peculiar glory of God, and the grand subject of the believer's confidence, joy, and grateful praise. Yet, when the Lord "proclaims his name," as “merciful “ and gracious, slow to anger, long-suffering, and “ ready to forgive;" he commonly gives some intimation that he will by no means clear the “guilty,” or the impenitent and unbelieving? All his declarations of compassion and love to sinners are connected with holy abhorrence and righteous indignation against their sins; and contain some intimations of that change which his grace effects in those who share his pardoning love. Yet even this would be insufficient to render the exercise of mercy (especially in that extent spoken of in scripture,) consistent with the perfection of holiness
Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. Nah, i. 2-7. Rom. iii. 19-31. 2 Peter. ii.4-9.
and justice: for, should mercy be shewn to those who merit vengeance, and nothing done to counteract the tendency of such a measure, justice would appear imperfect, its rights would be violated, and its glory eclipsed; the law would be in a measure degraded, and the divine purity would not shine forth in its full splendour. Some intimations, therefore, were given from the beginning, that mercy would be exercised in harmony with justice, and that Jehovah would, through the promised Seed, be“ a just God and a Saviour.”. Under the old dispensation, however, his servants seem rather to have believed that it would be so, than to have had clear perceptions of the mysterious way in which it would be effected: but the New Testament has removed the veil from the subject, as we shall easily perceive, if “ the veil do not still remain upon our “ hearts.” This appears to be the only method in which the divine perfections could be displayed to us in all their glory: at least, all created understanding must for ever have proved incapable of conceiving, in what way the largest exercise of pardon and love to the vilest sinners could consist with, and illustrate, the infinite justice and holiness of God, and establish his law in honour and authority. Infinite wisdom alone could devise a plan adequate to these purposes : it must spring from boundless love: and we may be sure, that the plan revealed to us was the most approved, of all that were possible, by infinite wisdom and love.
Every intimation, therefore, of a Messiah, a Mediator, a mercy-seat, a high priest, or an atoning sacrifice, should lead our minds to the great doctrine of redemption through Emmanuel's blood, as the central point in which every part of the revelation that God has made of himself to man must meet. But, without further anticipating this part of the subject, we may observe, that the scriptures every
where describe Jehovah as perfect in wisdom, holiness, justice, truth, goodness, and mercy in all its various exercises; they represent these attributes as the glory of his nature, and as constituting him the proper object of our supreme love, adoration, and service; as all harmonizing in his consummate character; and each subserving the exercise and glory of all his other perfections.
II. In more exactly investigating the scriptures, we find these attributes exemplified in the works and dispensations recorded of God. The display of his omnipotence and other natural perfections, in the works of creation, and in the miracles which he wrought for the deliverance of his servants or the punishment of his enemies, is too obvious to need a particular discussion : nor is it requisite to enlarge on his providential goodness. But that combination of justice, holiness, truth, and mercy, which has been stated as constituting the divine character, is manifested in his dealings with his rational creatures.-Infinite in holiness and justice, “he spared not the angels that sinned, but cast 66 them down to hell.” He denounced on fallen Adam and his race the awful sentence, “ Dust thou
art, and to dust thou shalt return;" and, in consequence of it, unnumbered millions have been swept into the grave by various dire and torturing diseases. The destruction of the old world by the deluge ; that of Sodom and the neighbouring cities by fire ; the plagues of Egypt; the vengeance
executed on the Canaanites; and all the judgments inflicted on the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness, in the promised land, and through every age; are such exhibitions of these awful attributes, that our minds naturally turn from the narrative with aversion : nor can any man fully understand them, till he has acquired a deep sense of the evil of sin, and of the justice of God. Indeed the corrections inflicted on Lot, David, and other offending believers, whose sins were eventually pardoned, display the same attributes, and authorize the same conclusions : so that the Psalmist might well say,
My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am “ afraid of thy judgments.
On the other hand, the Lord's patience, compassion, mercy, and grace are exhibited in all his dealings with fallen man. “ He endureth with “ much long-suffering the vessels of wrath :” he hath ever appeared ready to forgive the penitent, to pity the wretched, to relieve the distressed, to lift up the self-abasėd, and to comfort the brokenhearted. “His mercy is on them that fear him “ from generation to generation." His dealings with Israel, and with individuals of that favoured nation, prove this: nor did any sinner ever humbly seek his face in vain. The faithfulness of God is so illustrated in the accomplishment of his promise, concerning “ the seed of the woman,” four thousand years after it was given, that other instances need not be adduced. His judgments coincided with his threatenings, except as repentance intervened; and a reserve of mercy was in that case implied in all of them. The manifold wisdom of God is also most conspicuous, in so arranging these