Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

teries of the eternal world-hear him proclaiming ; “ I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and Morning Star ; and the Spirit and the Bride (that is, the church of God,) say come; and let him that heareth say, come, and let him that is athirst come ; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely, the pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,” on either side of which, “is the tree of life, yielding fruits every month, (that is, perpetually renewed,) and the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations."*

On this passage the pious and benevolent Doddridge well remarks; “ that such a declaration of divine grace, offering freely to all immortal life, seems to have been wisely inserted at the very close of the sacred canon, to encourage the hope of every humble soul, that is truly desirous of the blessings of the Gospel, and to guard against those suspicions of divine goodness, which some have so unhappily abetted.”

I shall close my remarks on this part of the subject by observing, that the advocates for the predestinarian scheme, ground their defence of it in a great measure on its necessary connexion with the glory of God; “the great and only object of our election,” says Calvin, “ is, that we should be to the praise of divine grace ;” “God orders all things by His counsel and decree, 80 that some men are devoted from the womb to certain death, that His Name may be glorified in their destruction.”+

“ God,” says Mr. Vaughan, “ chooses to himself a people out of this universally condemned race, to the rejection and exclusion of the rest, for reasons secret to us, but of which the furtherance of His own glory is, as in every other appointment, word and work of God, the ultimate object.” Thus also the Westminster Confession, “ by the decree of God for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death.” And again, “the elect are chosen without any thought of their faith or good works, all to the praise of His glorious grace. The reprobate are ordained to destruction and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice."S

• Rev. xxii, 16, 17 and 1, 2.

Vid. Introduct. supra, p. 179,

Vid. supra Introduct. p. 168 and 171.

§ Introduct. supra, p. 182.

Let us compare this defence with the facts related, and the statement made in the sacred history. I trust it will appear that the display of the divine glory is universally and peculiarly connected with the manifestation of mercy and justice, and not solely with the exercise of mere sovereign power, acting without reference to these truly glorious characters.

In truth, mercy towards sinful, but repentant man, is the attribute by which God, as it were, delights to be distinguished. Mercy, tender, long suffering, open to all who implore it with humility and penitence, making allowance for the weakness and frailty of man, remembering that he is but dust" mercy enduring for ever,” is the character, on which Scripture represents the God and Father of all, as founding His glory; and for this peculiarly is His name to be magnified by all the children of men.

Thus when God granted the request of His highly favoured servant the Jewish lawgiver, “ I beseech thee, O God, show me thy glory, he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee; and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee, and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy."*

Words which evidently imply that the glory of God which Moses desired to see, was inseparably connected with the GOODNESS of God, with the display of His moral perfection, rather than with the proof of His supreme sovereignty and irresistible power; and that the exercise of this goodness derived its great lustre from being unrestrained by any bonds of fatality, but proceeding entirely from free unbounded grace, without which no human being could be saved, as no mortal could be just before God. And when “God descended in the cloud, and stood with him there to proclaim the name of the Lord,” He did not appear as the strict inflexible judge, whose purity held human guilt in such abhorrence that it would never hesitate to punish, or stoop to forgive ; no, “the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed the name of the Lord—the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty ;

• Exod. xxxiii. 18, 19.

visiting the iniquity of the father upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation."*

This visitation upon the children, which at first might seem harsh, we know only relates to the present, not to the future world, to temporal judgments, not to eternal punishment; and is really a character of mercy, employing with the children corrective chastisment, to check the spreading contagion of parental depravity.t

Thus also, at the dedication of the temple of Solomon, the most illustrious occasion when the glory of Jehovah was manifested to the Jewish people, and through them to all the nations of the earth, it was in immediate connexion with the peculiar recognition of this peculiar attribute, the mercy of God. “ And it came to pass when the priests were come out of the holy place; it came even to pass as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord ; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals, and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, FOR HE IS GOOD, FOR HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER; that Then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister, by reason of the cloud, FOR THE GLORY OF THE LORD had filled the house of God.”

Thus also, in the festive song of David, on bringing the ark of God, and setting it up in the tabernacle he had pitched for it, the same attribute of mercy, was that to which the pious monarch called not only the Jews, but all nations to attend. “ Give unto the Lord ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength, give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name. O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good ; for His mercy endureth for ever."S

When the pious Ezra laid anew the foundations of the temple of the Lord, to restore it after the Babylonish captivity, “the priests were set in their apparel, and their courses, to praise the Lord after the ordinance of David, king of Israel ; and they

• Exod. xxxiv. 57.
+ Vid. the Author's Lecture on the Pentateuch, vol. ii. lect. 3, sect. 2.
| 2 Chron. v. 11.-14.

$ I Chron, xvi. 28, 34.

sung together by course, in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord, because He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever towards Israel.”* Here the peculiarity of their situation led them to praise the divine mercy, as it was then peculiarly manifested to themselves. The more comprehensive praises of David and Solomon recognised the divine mercy to all the nations of the earth : and shall we, who are by divine favour placed among the nations blessed by the great representative of David and Solomon, by Him who is not only the God and Lord of Israel, “but the desire of all nations,” whose appearance in this last temple poured upon it “a glory greater than the glory of the first;" shall we separate that glory from the exercise of mercy and justice, and annex it to the exercise of mere sovereign power ? No, surely ; we should call on all the inhabitants of the world “ to praise the Lord for His mercy endureth for ever :" and because this glory now appears so much the more illustrious, as the effects of that mercy are more extensively operative. The predestinarian scheme, on the contrary, would represent this mercy as exclusively confined to a select portion of mankind, while the “rest are devoted from the womb to certain death, that His name may be glorified in their destruction !”? Is it possible to reconcile this idea of the glory of God, with that glory which was exhibited to Moses, praised by David and Ezra, and so illustriously displayed to Solomon and the assembled thousands of Israel ?

Above all, can we reconcile the predestinarian scheme with that stupendous act of mercy, the Incarnation of the Son of God, for the redemption of man? When this was displayed to an adoring world, then was the connexion between the divine MERCY and the DIVINE GLORY most clearly manifested, then were the “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night, and lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid ; and the angel said unto them, fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people : for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord; and suddenly there was with the angel a

.

* Ezra iii, 10, 11.

+ Vid. supra Introduct. 171.

multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, and on EARTH PEACE, GOOD WILL TOWARD Men."* And when near the close of our Lord's ministry on earth, he entered in triumph into Jerusalem, surrounded by the populace, whom the fame of his unequalled power and mercy attracted, “ the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice, for all the wonders they had seen.” Their praise conjoined the glory of God with his renovating and redeeming love, for they said, “ blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord; PEACE in heaven, and GLORY in the highest.”

Here is the foundation on which the Scriptures rest the glory of God. Both at the delivery of the law, and the opening of the Gospel, THE ROBE OF GLORY WITH which GOD INVESTS HIMSELF, IS THE LUSTRE OF MERCY. But the predestinarian scheme would eclipse this brightness of glory, by exhibiting this mercy as clouded and obscured. Assuredly, in this instance, the spirit of Calvinism does not appear to be the spirit of the Scriptures.

And here, in my judgment, lies the great reason why that spirit, though it may be frequently united with much religious sincerity, must be guarded against as pernicious and delusive. If, indeed, the predestinarian scheme could be considered as a mere speculative error, which could produce no practical effect upon human feelings and conduct, it might perhaps be tolerated as unimportant and innoxious. But this cannot be admitted as to an opinion, which exhibits the divine attributes and government in a light so harsh and revolting. If the LOVE OF God is the foundation of all true religion, “ the first and great commandment,” it deserves the serious consideration of the patrons of the predestinarian scheme, how far the view which it gives of the conduct of God in the moral government of his creatures, is calculated to inspire and cherish this sacred principle. Were the decrees of God Known, then, indeed, the individuals selected as the exclusive objects of divine favour, would, from the influence of self-interest and self-love, feel a joy and elevation of soul at their own distinguished exaltation above the rest of their fellowcreatures, which might nearly resemble the feelings of gratitude

• Luke, ii. 8–15. VOL. III.

+ Luke, xix. 37–38.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »