« AnteriorContinuar »
GOD TO BE BELIEVED RATHER THAN MAN.
Romans, ii. 4.
--Let God be true, but every man a biar.
Tuis chapter is justly considered as a dialogue between St. Paul, and a Jew raising up a series of objections to the doctrines, which had been taught in the preceding chapter. These doctrines the objector supposes to be inconsistent with the tenour of the Abrahamic covenant, and the adoption of the Jewish nation as the peculiar people of God. In the verse preceding the text, the objec. tor asks whether the unbelief attributed to that nation by the Apostle, will not destroy the faithfulness of God. St. Paul replies, “ By no means. Let God be acknowledged to have spoken truth, although every man should be found a liar:” as every man will in fact be found, who denies the truth of God, or asserts what is opposed to that truth. In other words, “ Let God be acknowledged to have spoken truth on every occasion, although in this acknowledgment we should be obligéd to confess, that every man living is a liar; particularly, although every man, who opposes the truth of God, either in his belief, or his declarations, should be found, as in the end he certainly will be found, to have believed and declared falscly.”
It cannot be denied that the dispensation, to which the Jew opposes the objection in the verse preceding the text, was of a mysterious nature ; involving, as the most enlightened members of that nation would naturally judge, difficulties profound and perplexing. No Jew could easily conceive how a descendant of Abraham could, consistently with the covenant made with that
patriarch, fail of being interested in the blessings of the promised Messiah. But the mysteriousness of this dispensation did not prevent a single doctrine, which it included or inferred, from being true, nor create the least imputation on the Divine veracity.
The doctrines, objected to, were doctrines of Revelation,
taught by St. Paul under the immediate inspiration of the spirit
of God. The answer of the Apostle is commensurate with the objection; and from the manner in which both are presented to us, is plainly and certainly applicable to every objection, made against any doctrine contained in the Scriptures. Whenever a doctrine, found in them, is questioned or impeached; it is always a sufficient answer, that such doctrine is declared by God. Whatever he has said is to be admitted by us, because it is impossible that he should deceive, or be deceived. Our own deci. sions on the contrary, when employed about religious subjects, are always liable to errour, from the imperfection of our understanding and the strength of our biasses. Our understanding in its best exercises discerns obscurely, and comprehends imperfectly, the nature of very many religious subjects; and our biasses, often strong and almost always delusive, lead us to examine and to conclude, with a partiality which is only hostile to truth. While, therefore, the veracity of God contains the highest of all evidence, the fallibility and deceitfulness of the human mind furnish every man with the amplest reason to distrust the decisions of both himself, and his fellow-men.
In general language, the doctrine, taught by St. Paul in the test,
Wherever we find the declarations of God on one side, and human opinions on the other, we are universally bound to receive the former, and disregard the latter.
The Apostle, when delivering this doctrine, was conversing with a Jew; a man, who had a divine Revelation in his hands, and professed to believe it. To such a man, only, could the doctrine with propriety be addressed at all. Nothing can be more preposterous, than to call upon a person to believe what his Maker has spoken, who does not admit that he has spoken at all. But to those who possess the Scriptures, and believe them to be the word of God, the declaration in the text is universally applicable with
irresistible force. Whatever else may be false, all that God has declared is true; and it is to be received implicitly, by whatever buman opinions or arguments it may be opposed.
It is not sufficient, that we receive such doctrines as we can explain. The doctrines, opposed by the Jew in the context, were all mysterious, and this was his primary objection against them: but St. Paul answers him, “Let God be true; but every man a liar.” Acknowledge his truth, by giving implicit credit to his declarations; and in this very acknowledgment confess your own opinions, which oppose these declarations, to be false. To believe a Scriptural doctrine which we can explain, is not to confide in the veracity of God, but in our own explanation. This is not the evidence, on which he originally requires us to believe. He demands that we give credit to his veracity; and that absolutely, without reserve or qualification. If this be not done by us, our faith is radically defective. Should a friend of ours, known to be an honest man, declare to us a fact of which he professed that he had perfect knowledge, and we should refuse to believe his declaration until we had been able to explain all the circumstances to our own satisfaction; our friend would justly complain that we had no confidence in his veracity,
It is no uncommon thing to allege the mysteriousness of several doctrines in the Scriptures, as a reason for not believing them. No allegation can be more erroneous, or groundless. In the works of God, both of creation and providence, by which we are continually surrounded, we are presented every day, hour, and moment, with innumerable mysteries. All these we admit without hesitation : and to question them would be regarded as the extreme stupidity of scepticism. All these are works of God. The Scriptures are the work of the same God; and an account either of the works which he has already wrought, or of those which he will hereafter accomplish. If the works themselves are so extensively mysterious; the account, given of them, must, in order to be true, be mysterious also. Mysteries, therefore, are so far from being an objection against the Scriptures, that they are of course to be expected in them; if we suppose them to contain, as they profess to contain, an account of the works of God, they must in very many instances be mysterious, in order to be true.
Hence the mysteriousness of a doctrine infers no objection to it: for plainly many doctrines in a revelation, as is unanswerably evident from these observations, must of course be mysteri
We never think of making this an objection to the reality of the familiar facts, which are continually occurring; nor to the truth of the declarations, in which the existence of such facts is asserted. Nothing can be more mysterious, than that a body should be moved by force; or the impulse of another body. Nothing can be more mysterious, than that our own bodies should be moved by the volitions of our minds. Yet nothing is more certain, or more obvious, than these facts; and nothing more evident, than the truth of the declarations in which they are asserted. In the same manner the whole economy of the mineral, animal, and rational, kingdoms is, in each, a continual succession of mysteries. Yet no man, in his senses, even thinks of denying a single fact in this immense field of creation and providence, on this account. How destitute, then, of all foundation for doubt is the mysteriousness of the Scriptures? How contrary to all sound reasoning, and analogy; how opposed to the plainest dictates of common sense; is every impeachment, denial, or disbelief, of the Scriptures, or of any doctrines which they contain, because they are mysterious ?
What is mystery? It is inexplicableness. Why is any doctrine inexplicable? Evidently because we are too ignorant to understand it. Is our ignorance, then, a reason, why we should deny the reality of the works, or doubt the truth of the declarations, of God? If it furnish no objection against those works of God, which are familiarly known to us; can it be any reason for doubting those, which are less known to us? Ought we to suppose, that a system of vegetation would contain more wonders than a system of Redemption ; that the character of the Son of God would be more easily comprehended than the economy of a human body; that the communication of spiritual life would be more easily understood than the communication of animal life; or that the Resurrection could be more easily explained than the birth of an insect? All these things are in their nature as far removed beyond the limits of our comprehension, as any, which the universe contains, How then, when we find the world
around us filled with mysteries, can we rationally expect, that these subjects, instead of resembling those parts of creation and providence with which we are acquainted, can, amid all their complication, remoteness and sublimity, be distinctly and thoroughly comprehended by such minds as ours?
Nor does the painful and humiliating nature of a doctrine furnish the least reason for questioning its truth.
There are innumerable facts in the natural world, which are humiliating and painful. The existence of sin, errour, toil, disease, sorrow, pam and death, in their innumerable forms, presents to the eye a catalogue of this nature, which is literally endless. But what man in his senses ever doubted the reality of one of them, merely because the admission of it wounded his pride, or agonized his heart ? Every man sees the world around him filled with things of this mortifying nature. How, in the exercise of common sense can he fail to expect other things of the same kind, in a revelation from God?
No declaration concerning the character of sinners can fail, if true, of being humiliating ; no declaration concerning their circumstances, of being alarming. Who, unless infatuated, can believe that God regards sinners with complacency; or that, if they die sinners, he will not punish them beyond the grave? These absurdities even the heathen, sinful, erring and ignorant, as they have been, never adopted.
There are multitudes of persons in the Christian world, who, while they profess to believe the Scriptures, in some cases deny, and in others doubt, the declarations which they contain. But there are still greater multitudes, who professedly admit every thing, found in them, and who yet admit many of their declarations, only in the sense, annexed by themselves to the several passages in which they are contained. Each of these has his own interpretation. In this manner the number of such interpretations has become very great: and in very many instances they are various, discordant, and contradictory. Hence, in the mind of a sober man arises irresistibly the momentous question : " In what sense shall I believe this, and that, passage of Scripture? I am ready," such a man will say, " to admit without a question all the declarations of God. But how shall I understand their true