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uphold—that though they are down, He will never lift them up, that He will never hear their cry, nor help them, but will abandon them for ever to hopeless wretchedness ?
Thus again ; does not the Psalmist's firm resolution that his mouth should speak the praise of the Lord, and the confidence with which he calls on all flesh, that is, on every human being, to join in that praise, “ to give thanks unto His holy name for ever and ever," does not this suggest a very different view of the Divine character and the Divine dispensations towards the children of men ?
The same spirit every where pervades the compositions of the inspired psalmist, for surely we cannot conceive a more enlarged idea of the mercy of God, than that which animated his strains, when in the 103d Psalm he exclaims : “ Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me; praise His holy name; praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits : who forgiveth all thy sin, and healeth all thine infirmities, who saveth thy life from destruction, and crowneth thee with mercy and loving kindness.” In truth, the psalmist in his effusions of enraptured thanksgivings, searches the whole compass of creation, to afford him images sufficiently exalted and expressive, to illustrate the boundless mercy of God, and calls up the tenderest affections of the human heart, to supply some faint resemblance of the pardoning love of the Creator to frail and sinful man, whenever he is humbled and penitent, and turns from his evil way. “ The Lord” says he “is full of compassion and mercy, long suffering and of great goodness. He will not always be chiding, neither keepeth He his anger for ever; He hath not dealt with us after our sins, neither rewarded us after our wickedness; for look how high the heaven is in comparison of the earth, so great is His mercy towards them that fear Him ; look how wide also the east is from the west, so far hath He set our sins from us; yea, like as a father pitieth his own children, even so is the Lord merciful unto them that fear Him, for He knoweth whereof we are made, He remembereth we are but dust.” And pursuing this fertile theme, the inspired monarch derives from the transitory and feeble nature of man, contrasted with tbe unchangeable perfection of the great Jehovah, a topic not of terror and depression, but of hope and confidence, to encourage the humble-minded,
and support the virtuous. “ The days of man are but as grass, for he flourisheth as a flower of the field; for as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more; but the merciful goodness of the Lord endureth for ever and ever upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness upon children's children, even upon such as keep His commandments to do them.” In fine, the close of this psalm rises to a sublimity of praise of the universal dominion and universal goodness of God, which most forcibly repels every idea of exclusion and restriction, of limited mercy and irreversible reprobation. The Lord hath prepared His “seat in heaven, and His kingdom ruleth over all.” Surely this leads us to conclude, that no intelligent and moral beings are excluded from the privileges of subjects to this all-powerful and all-merciful King ; and exactly this feeling is expressed by the Psalmist when he exclaims; “O praise the Lord ye angels of His, ye that excel in strength, ye that fulfil His commandments and hearken unto the voice of His words ;O praise the Lord all ye His hosts, ye servants of His that do His pleasure; O speak good of the Lord, all ye works of His, in all places of His dominion; praise thou the Lord, O my soul.”— Can the heart entertain, or the tongue express feelings more antiexclusive-more contrary to every idea of limited mercy, exclusive election; to every idea of absolute eternal decrees, consigning a great portion of the creatures of God to inevitable reprobation and eternal misery ! • Several other Psalms exhibit a similar view of the long suffering mercy of God; of His readiness to hear the prayers of the contrite, accept their penitence, and pardon their sins. Thus, in the 106th and 107th, the inspired psalmist calls on his hearers, “ O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is gracious, and His mercy endureth for ever."* This enduring mercy is illustrated by relating the various national rebellions and idolatries of the Jews; the chastisements employed by the great Jehovah, to correct and reform them, and His repeated mercy in forgiving their offences and restoring them to His favour and protection
-sometimes on their own penitence and prayers—sometimes on the intercession of those zealous and pious ministers and prophets of God, who were employed to instruct, govern, and discipline them. Thus, on their making the calf in Horeb, and worshiping the molten image, God is described as declaring; “He would have destroyed them, had not Moses, His chosen, stood before Him in the gap, to turn away His wrathful indignation, lest He should destroy them.”* And at a latter period, " when they joined themselves to Baal-peor, and ate the offerings of the dead and thus provoked Him to anger with their own inventions, and the plague was great among them.”+ It is added ; then stood up Phineas and prayed, and so the plague ceased, and that was counted unto him for righteousness, among all posterities for evermore.” Now it is univerally admitted that Moses and Phineas were in these instances, prototypes of the great Mediator, the Redeemer of man, even Jesus Christ the Lord; and if their intercession was thus successful for the whole Jewish nation, would this suggest the idea, that the benefits of the great intercessor would be confined to a small portion of Christians, while the whole world without, and the majority within the church, should be excluded from all share in them, by a secret but eternal decree of reprobation, abandoning them to their inborn corruption, to unavoidable guilt, and irremediable condemnation, with no hope of mercy, no possibility of escape. Is this consistent with the conduct of the God of Israel to that backsliding people, of whom we are assured, “ many a time did He deliver them, but they rebelled against Him with their own inventions, and were brought down in their wickedness; nevertheless when He saw their adversity, He heard their complaint, He thought upon His covenant, and pitied them according to the multitude of his mercies.”! Where does this multitude of mercies appear in the scheme of Calvinistic reprobation ?
* Ps. cvii. 1.
Proceeding to the 107th Psalm, which appears to describe the dealings of God rather with mankind in general than specially with the Jews, we are told “of those who rebelled against the words of the Lord, and lightly regarded the counsel of the Most Highest : Hé also brought down their hearts through heaviness, they fell down and there was none to help them.”S No exertions of their own, no human power could help them ;
+ Ps. coi. 23.
+ Ib. 28–31.
but they still had a refuge left in the infinite mercy of their God, “when they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, He delivered them out of their distress ; for He brought them out of darkness, and out of the shadow of death, and brake their bonds in sunder.” How does such mercy encourage the penitent, and cheer the contrite heart. How forcibly does it impel us to exclaim with the Psalmist; “O that men would therefore praise the Lord for His goodness, and declare the wonders that He doeth (not for the Jews only, nor for the elect Christian only, but generally) “for the children of men.” Does the scheme of Calvinistic reprobation exhibit the same view of the mercy of God, or awaken the same feeling of praise and thanksgiving for His goodness to the children of men ?
In fine, in the 117th Psalm, the inspired writer breaks forth in this universal call for love and gratitude towards God; “O praise the Lord all ye heathen, praise Him all ye nations, for His merciful kindness is ever more and more towards us, and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise the Lord.”* Can we avoid feeling, that this call would be misapplied, if the heathen and all the nations were excluded by the eternal decree of absolute reprobation, from experiencing the merciful kindness of their Creator: and that the divine truth would not be conspicuous in this interpretation of the divine word ? Surely such passages as this compel us to substitute for this severe and terrific system, the heart-cheering assurance, that the Lord is really, as the text represents Him, “gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy, that He is good to all, and that His tender mercies are over all His works.”
If from the Psalms we pass to the Prophets, we shall there see abundant testimonies to this great truth, “that the Lord is loving unto every man, and that His tender mercies are over all His works.” We find indeed in the prophets the most awful denunciation of punishments on the obstinately rebellious and impenitent, but they are never separated from the assurance of mercy to the sinner, if he will repent and turn to his God. According to the urgent call of Isaiah—“ Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while he is near; let
* Ps. cxvii.
the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”* And to the encouraging declaration of Jeremiah ; "for the Lord willnot cast off for ever, but though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies, for He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.”+ And the equally strong language of Ezekiel to those of the house of Israel, who felt the burthen of their sins, and were almost hopeless of pardon ; “ O thou Son of Man, speak thus unto the house of Israel: Thus ye speak, saying, if our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them; how should we then live ? say unto them, as I live, said the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways ; for why will ye die, O house of Israel." I
Would these declarations suggest such ideas of the Divinity, as the system of absolute predestination suggests, or permit us to receive them ? Can they permit us to believe, that by an eternal and unalterable decree, formed before they were called into existence, and uninfluenced by the foreknowledge of their conduct, any of the sons of men were predestined to condemnation, without possessing any power of repentance, or of turning unto God, any hope of pardon, any possibility of escaping eternal death? • Should it be alleged that these promises of mercy relate only to the Jewish people, to whom Jehovah, their national Lord and King, was bound by special promises, and a peculiar covenant, but that they do not extend to the mass of mankind without the pale of the Jewish church ; it may be replied, that the clear and direct expressions of the sacred Scriptures are inconsistent with this statement; that they speak of God distinctly, as being “ loving unto every man, and of His tender mercies being over all His works;" that in consequence of the proofs of mercy which the sacred history discloses, they speak of “the children of men, of the Gentiles,” of “all nations,” of “all things living,” as
* Isaiah, lv. 6-8.
+ Lam. iii. 31–33. Ezekiel, xxxiii 10, li.