Sidor som bilder

gravely and formally, entered upon, yester day; or even growing doubtful concerning it; you instantly conclude, he is not much. to be relied upon. upon. You will not choose such an one as a depositary for some of your more precious and valuable interests.

You will be apt to call to mind the following proverb; "My son, fear thou the Lord and the king; and meddle not with them that are given to change For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both." And if mutability in one's purposes is a serious objection to any very close connection, or fellowship, with him, particularly in matters of weight and importance; it will, by an easy transition of thought, become perfectly clear to us, that God is, in no measure, entitled to our confidence, if he be capable of any change in his purposes. If he do not

[ocr errors]

eternally purpose exactly the same things, where is his immutability? His character is ruined beyond retrieve, not only if he disannul one determination by another, but also if a single new determination enters his heart at any time. This would imply a strong imperfection, that he was not aware, from the beginning, of all the possible reasons and occasions for action, that might occur. What ever purpose-Jehovah ever did, or ever shall, form, or execute, of that purpose it cannot be true, that it was ever out of his mind. This would prove that he is not immutable, and, consequently, that he is unworthy to be revered and honoured as God, Such changea

bleness, as we are now speaking of, implies a great extent of imperfection. It implies a sad deficiency,in point of knowledge,or of mental conception; for no one can be liable to pass from one series of purposes to another, or to form any new determination, unless a new apprehension, or view, of things has t ken place in his mind. Things must appear differently to us from what they once did, or our reso. lutions will continue the same they then were. If there are any alterations in the purposes of God, it must be because he does not always view things in the same point of light. Nothing can lead to it, except it be a more enlarged, or a more contracted, understanding. The idea of a change in any of the divine purposes must reduce the Deity, therefore, exceedingly low. It would break up that broad and most ample foundation for our confidence and hope, which is laid in his eternal and adorable perfections. It was no change in the purposes of God that occasioned his saying, My Spirit shall not always strive with man-and-I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them." Neither should it be imputed to this, that the Lord said unto Moses, "I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff necked people: Now, therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that


[ocr errors]

may consume them; and I will make of

thee a great nation." Neither does it argue any thing of this changeableness, that when Moses prayed thus, "Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people, the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people." There is no alteration of a divine purpose supposed in the words following, "Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed, that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." When Nine

veh was warned of her danger, and sought to avert the threatened destruction by humiliation and amendment of life, it is said, "And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." In this affair there was no change in the purposes of God; neither was there in the case of Hezekiah's having his life lengthened out, fifteen years, after "the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shall die and not live." the foregoing instances the expressions would seem to denote, that God had formed determinations, which he was afterwards induced to relinquish. Were this to be admitted as the fact, or agreeable to the real meaning of the texts, the words of our text could no


[ocr errors]

longer hold good, "I am the Lord, I change not. But how is it that the Lord repented that he had made man, and would therefore, destroy him? that he thought to extinguish Israel in the wilderness, but, at the intercession of Moses, repented and preserved them? Instead of leading us to a particular consid eration of divine determinations, these cases serve only to exhibit the dealings of Providence, upon certain occasions, as different from what they would have been, had the occasions been different. Destroying a thing, is, in a sense, repenting of its existence, or manifesting an opposition to its existence. Such was it with God, as to the case of the ante-diluvians. Destroying them was a repenting of their existence, or well-being, though determined upon from eternity. But how can the purposes of God be esteemed uniform and inviolable, when contrary things are spoken of and applied to the same subject as in the cases of Eli's house and the Ninevites, and also of Hezehiah's sickness. " I said indeed that thy house should walk before me for ever; but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me. In forty days shall Nineveh be destroyed; but the Lord repented him of the evil and did it not." &c. To understand and receive these statements correctly, we must make distinctions, such as the following.

1. Whatever is stated conditionally, or upon some certain proviso, cannot be meant to point out a determination of providence ;

for all God's purposes are unconditional, or absolute. For instance, God's purposing to save a sinner, if he repent; or to damn him, if he do not repent; is, properly, forming no purpose at all respecting him. From such a statement, merely, it can never be gathered, whether he will be saved or lost; because the purpose expressed is not in favour of the one more than of the other. Every purpose of God must make the event certain, unless, the purpose itself fails; but God's purpos ing to save a sinner, if he repent, does not make his salvation certain.

2. What God had said, concerning the priesthood in the family of Eli, concerning the overthrow of Nineveh, and the death of Hezekiah, was conditional. It was spoken as to persons in a state of probation, and, of course, was calculated to encourage and per suade to a holy line of conduct. The good word of God, concerning the priesthood, was to excite persons, in that office, to fidelity. What was denounced against Nineveh was to make them humble, and lead them to a reformation. And the message to Hezeki ah, by the prophet, was to prepare him, by solemn and fervent prayer, for the lengthing out of his years. This proves, that none of the purposes of providence were intended to be brought into view, upon those occasions. An absolute divine determination to destroy a particular person, or people, for their wickedness, could never be used as an argument with such subjects to bring them to repent

« FöregåendeFortsätt »