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and conduct, which appears to our contracted minds. Yet it may encourage us, under this our conscious incapacity, to reflect that the Lord himself speaks to us in our own language; as more conducive to our benefit, though less flattering to our pride. Philosophers, it is true, frequently reject the style of scripture, and attempt to prove that there is nothing in the divine nature which can properly be called wrath, indignation, or avenging justice. justice. But, whatever use may be made of these speculations, in teaching us to exclude from our thoughts concerning the infinite God every idea which originates from the corrupt passions of our fallen nature; it is evident that this is not the best method of addressing mankind : neither the most intelligible, most impressive, or most useful for it is not the style of the only wise God himself. In speaking to us, he has seen good to adopt that kind of language which is commonly used by the unlearned, that is, by an immense majority of the human species.
We must therefore continue to discourse of the divine attributes, as distinct though harmonious: and when we read that "God is love," we must suppose that a different instruction is intended than when we are told, that "our God is a con
suming fire." The declaration, that the Lord is "a holy and just God," has a different meaning from the encouraging assurance, that "He is " merciful and gracious, forgiving iniquity, trans"gression, and sin." Yet these distinct attributes perfectly harmonize in the divine character, and only seem to limit each other: for the Lord is in
finite in wisdom, justice, holiness, goodness, mercy, and truth; exactly as if each attribute subsisted alone in his incomprehensible nature.
We must not, however, imagine, when it is said that God is love, or truth, or vengeance, that these properties are so essential to him, that they cannot but act to the utmost in all possible cases; as fire cannot but burn, whether the effects be useful or destructive; or as water must rush downward, when obstructions are removed, whether it fertilize or deluge the country. We should remember that he acts with most perfect freedom, and unerring wisdom, "according to the counsel of "his own will." It is therefore impossible that any divine attribute could have been exercised in a greater degree, or in a different manner, than it has been because the works of the Lord's power, and the effects of his justice and love, have been exactly as many and as great, as infinite wisdom determined they should be.
We may perhaps discover a faint illustration of the subject in the conduct of two affluent persons, both apparently very liberal. The one, not duly estimating the real value of riches, or the true ends of generosity, scatters abroad with a lavish hand, till he exhausts the very resources of his bounty; while his indiscriminate liberality often encourages vice, and does more harm than good to society. The other considers his wealth as an improvable talent: he gives and spends only when he judges that it will answer some good purpose; he frequently rejects importunate applications, but on other occasions he is bountiful without waiting to be solicited. He studies to exercise beneficence
in consistency with justice, and to retain the ability of permanent usefulness: he aims to render his liberality subservient to the best interests of mankind, and uniformly to discountenance sloth, profligacy, and ungodliness. And thus, while he seems to limit his bounty, he renders it more abundantly and durably useful, by regulating it with prudence and discretion.-In like manner the wisdom and justice of God may appear to restrain the exercise of his love; but they only direct it in that manner, which is most worthy and honourable to his name, and which best promotes the interest of his universal and everlasting kingdom.
It may therefore suffice in general to observe, that the Lord acts freely and according to his own perfections, and not by constraint or reluctantly; that loving kindness is his peculiar honour, which adds lustre to all his other attributes; that he delights in goodness and mercy, and rejoices in his boundless power of communicating felicity; that he is not in any respect less holy, just, and true, than if he had shewn no mercy; and that it is impossible he should communicate more happiness, upon any other plan, than he actually will communicate in that way which his infinite wisdom has devised, whatever ignorance or presumption may imagine or assert.
II. We proceed then to illustrate the truth and importance of the doctrine contained in the text, from the dealings of God with his creatures, especially with the human race.
This will be rendered very evident by considering a gradation of events, in which the Lord has
exercised love and mercy, far beyond all that ever could have entered into the heart of man to conceive, had it not been revealed.
Let us then endeavour to realize, as far as such poor worms are able, the infinite and self-existent God, from all eternity possessed of essential glory and felicity, incapable of increase or diminution.
Thus circumstanced, he could have no other possible inducement but love, or a disposition to delight in communicating happiness, in creating the universe, and producing a vast variety of beings, capable of life and enjoyment. The inanimate creation was formed perfectly good, and exactly suited to the use and benefit of living creatures. The numerous orders of these, from the invisible animated atom to the bright seraph before the throne, were all made complete in their kind, adapted to the place and design of their existence, and capable of a measure of enjoyment: and, except as sin has deranged the original constitution of infinite love, no creature is left destitute of a degree of happiness equal to its capacity. In meditating, however, on this subject, we must recollect, that "the creation groaneth and travail"eth in pain," through the sins of man: his cruelty and tyranny add immensely to the sufferings of innocent animals, and he is punished in them, as his property and the subjects of his original dominion.
It is also worthy of observation, that no rational creature has ever been deprived of an adequate felicity, except in the case of transgression; at least we have no intimation of such a fact, either in the works or in the word of God. None has
been degraded to an inferior situation, rendered uncertain in respect of the future, or distressed by terror, bitterness, or vanity. On the contrary, we have every reason to conclude that the capacities of all obedient creatures continually expand; that their enjoyment proportionably increases; and that they all will become more and more blessed to all eternity. In these things surely GOD IS
If the ease of infants should be thought an exception, seeing they suffer and die without personal criminality; we may observe, without entering on an intricate controversy, that all who believe the Bible must allow the human race to have become sinful and mortal by the fall of Adam ; and they who reject revelation will not find less difficulty than others, in accounting for the present condition of mankind. If then If then every branch fell when the root was overthrown; if we are 'born in sin and the children of wrath;' it behoves us to be silent on this subject, and to wait for the clearer light of the great decisive day. For indeed it is highly probable, that the case of infants will then appear not only consistent with the divine justice, in respect of their present sufferings, but one grand display of the divine mercy and goodness, in the felicity by which those sufferings were succeeded.
The Lord, having, then created various orders of rational creatures, has further manifested his "love," by condescending to become their moral Governor. Infinite wisdom, justice, goodness, and truth, are indispensably requisite in the Sovereign of the universe. His government must