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them that fear him." He is also represented, by the prophet Hosea, as expostulating with the rebellious Israelites, in the following pathetic manner; "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Adinah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? My heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim," &c. In the parable of the penitent Prodigal, our Saviour has represented the Deity in the character of an affectionate Parent, eager to embrace the offender, and obliterating his just resentments, by transports of joy at his reformation.
When the Being who has implanted such strong affections in the human breast, to render Parents the assiduous guardians of their children's happiness, condescends to acknowledge himself to be the father of Man, we may rest assured that his conduct will not be less assiduous, less benignant, less wise, or less successful.
The divine Beneficence is displayed through all animated nature. From his inexhaustible and infinitely various stores, does God supply
the wants of every living creature; and for all his rational offspring he amply provides, as for members of the same extensive family. They indiscriminately share in the common blessings of life. He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. So numerous are the bounties of his providence, enjoyed by the thoughtless and disobedient, that every distinct act of vice is a distinct act of ingratitude. Every offence committed against our heavenly Father, is a trespass upon some indulgence. It is the abuse of some gift, or of some propensity, which he has conferred or implanted, for a beneficent purpose, Every law that is violated, is an injunction for some good. All those acts of disobedience which are represented as provoking the Divine wrath, and exposing the offender to his hot dis pleasure, consist in disobedience to rules which the Universal Parent has prescribed, solely for the happy government of his family. He hates Sin because he knows that it leads to misery. He loves Virtue or Righteousness, because he knows that all her paths are paths of peace and happiness. He is angry with the Wicked every day, because their mad extravagancies are incessantly disturbing the order, harmony, and welfare of his family. He is pleased with the Righ
ous, because they are executing his designs, He condescends to consider them as fellow workers with himself in the promotion of good. The most anxious and assiduous Parent does not watch over the prosperity of his children, with an attention that can emulate the universally watchful eye of that Being, who numbereth the hair of our heads; nor can a sparrow fall to the ground unnoticed by him. As Man is the intelligent offspring of God, he has not only made abundant provision for his animal wants, but the Divine conduct is directed towards him as a rational, moral, responsible Agent; capable of higher pursuits than those which concern animal life, and an expectant of a future destiny.
Of all the creatures of God, Man alone is capable of abusing the gift of providence; of being subjected to the laws of morality, and of transgressing them; of violating the dictates of his conscience, and of being inimical to his own happiness.
This Capacity proceeds from a power which constitutes, in him, an honourable distinction from every other creature in the universe; the power of acting, in every case, according to the dictates of his Will, without the inevitable compulsion of physical laws, or being invaria
bly subjected to the contracted laws of animal instinct.
We attempted, in a former work, to trace the sources of human aberrations, and of the miseries they occasion; we shall at present simply state that they were many, great, and as extensive as the rational family of heaven.
The Histories of the ancient world, both sacred and profane, are no other than the histories of an universal depravity; of a disobedience which terminated in the grossest ignorance, and the most inveterate habits of vice and impiety; beyond the power of reform, by any efforts merely human. The history of their religions consists in copious details of superstitious and barbarous rites, which were a disgrace to the first glimmerings of reason; and which deprived the heart of its natural affections. Their noblest exploits consisted of various usurpations, devastations, and shedding of human blood in copious streams. Beings of the same species, were perpetually at variance, which is contrary to the usual decency observed in the brute creation; and the children of the Great Parent, were plundering and murdering each other, in every habitable corner of the globe.
We read much in the Old Testament of the
fierce anger of the Lord, of his executing his wrath, taking vengeance of his adversaries. Such expressions were a dreadful accommodation to the character of the times; imitating, as it were, the impassioned resentments and threatenings, which parents so frequently express, upon the obstinate and wearisome disobedience of their children. Such language repeatedly uttered by the prophets of the Most High,sufficiently evince the wretched state of morals in the world; and it vindicates his wisdom in concealing, as much as the incessant effusion of his goodness would admit, the essential benignity of his nature. For, no expressions of indignation and abhorrence, could surpass the atrocities prevalent among the nations. No threats could exceed their deserts, Even the superior instructions and condescending kindnesses, which pervaded the Jewish Dispensation, were not sufficient to keep that perverse people from the contaminations of the surrounding Pagans. They still exposed themselves to the severest expostulations of Jehovah, and to the occasional operations of terror. It was even requisite to announce their moral laws with an awful solemnity, which made all the people tremble. This was, as Moses informed them, that "the fear of God might be before their eyes, that they sinned not."