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‘severity, which are generally supposed to relate to a future state, “are accomplished in the present one; and we are convinced that “the procedure of Jehovah, with the descendants of Adam, in the “spiritual world, will be consistent with his character as “good “unto all,” and with his tender mercies which are “over all his “works."—(Psalm li. 54). In America, there are many dis‘tinguished Preachers, and able Editors, who believe and maintain “that punishment is limited to the present state. Others, again, of ‘equal talent, believe that punishment will be continued in a future “state; but such is the conciliatory spirit which prevails, in that ‘community, that these differences are matters of forbearance, and ‘their “moderation is thereby known to all men.'”
With the above extract, though not intended as an answer to his letter, the Author is perfectly satisfied; being fully persuaded that the point in question is one on which christians will never exactly see eye to eye, on this side of time. Moderation, and forbearance, are therefore becoming—they are our duty, where an attempt to explain, would only be to “multiply words without
ON NATURE—ON THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION—AND THE MORAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD;
Particular and General Redemption considered; not as viewed through
the lens of "system," but in the light of Scripture, and
in the obvious spirit of the Gospel.
SECOND EDITION, ABRIDGED.
OUR knowledge of every thing, in nature, is very limited; and, in regard to the christian revelation, the wisest and roost learned christians are also but very partially instructed. In the divine pro* cedure, too, there are many things so far surpassing our comprehension, and so confounding to our notions and systems, that, in regard to them, our wisest philosophy would be the philosophy of silence. It appears to be the mind and the will of the Deity, that in whatever way we turn ourselves; whether to the book of nature, Or of revelation, or of providence, we should be made to feel our own weakness and ignorance, and to regard, with reverence and awe, his wonderful procedure. To offer, therefore, any positive solution of the difficulties that occur, in the many things apparently irreconcilable, in the works and ways of God, would be to arrogate a degree of wisdom which is not to be found in created beings. It is, therefore, with the utmost caution, and distrust of ourselves, that we should enter and expatiate upon unknown ground; and especially with regard to the government of God, respecting which, we would be more wise to acknowledge our ignorance. "There can be nothing so completely above us, and beyond us, as the plans of the Infinite Mind, which extend to all time, and embrace all worlds. We cannot conceive a more glaring rebellion, than for beings of a day to sit in judgment upon the Eternal, and to apply their paltry experience to the counsels of his high and unfathomable wisdom." He who calls in question the government of God, because it is incomprehensible to his weak understanding,—he who questions the Bible to be a revelation from heaven, merely because it ascribes a plan and an economy to the Supreme Being, which he conceives are unworthy of his character, and yet cannot reject the ample evidences of its authenticity, is acting, in fact, a rebellious part. For, "it is the administration of the incomprehensible JEHOVAH that he sits in judgment upon,—the councils of him whose wisdom and energy are of a kind so inexplicable,—whom no magnitude can overpower,—whom no littleness can escape,—whom no variety can bewilder; who gives vegetation to every blade of grass, and moves every particle of blood that circulates through the veins of the meanest animal; and all this, by the same omnipotent arm that is abroad upon the universe, and presides over the destiny of all worlds."
The things of God are yet but partially revealed. He has given "gifts unto men," whereby they may know many things, in part; but has reserved to himself that perfection of wisdom, by which all things are completely known. It is by his gospel revelation alone, "that life and immortality are brought to light;" but the light may be said to have as yet only dawned upon us, regarding spiritual things. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be," in immortality;—"We see through a glass, darkly." It would, therefore, be our highest wisdom to confess ignorance, in many things respecting which we are conceitedand wise in our own eyes. Both christians, and philosophers, when they cannot comprehend, do often greatly err, in modelling the divine character, according to the systems and opinions they have set up.
In regard to the works of nature around us, so ignorant are we, that notwithstanding all our boasted knowledge, it may, with truth be said, even of the greatest philosopher, that he cannot comprehend fully the nature of a single object. And, with respect to revealed religion, and the divine government, the views of the most eminent saint are also very imperfect, as we have already noticed. This is what we must acknowledge, when even an Apostle, on whom were poured the gifts of the spirit, would say, "we know but in part." In short, neither by revelation nor by nature, nor by the help of both combined, do we, in this little corner of his dominions, "see far enough to offer any decision on the merits of a government which embraces worlds and reaches eternity." "We are of yesterday and know nothing." It is enough, if we have sufficiency of external proof for the Bible being an authentic message from heaven. And this being so amply proved, both by miracles, and by the most indubitable testimony that ever was put upon record, nothing therefore remains for us, but to submit to it. This being proved, we are bound to believe, although we cannot comprehend. But while its external evidences are such as ought to satisfy every one, to the real christian its internal evidences are paramount to all human confirmation; but, indeed, the nature and institutions of christianity are so humbling, and mortifying, and altogether so unpalatable to flesh and blood, as prove themselves to be, not of human, but of divine origin.
There are many who profess great veneration for God, and admiration of his works, as exhibited in Nature, who nevertheless, in their fancied wisdom, denounce Revelation as " imposition," and as " derogatory to his dignity." Because the doctrines of Christianity are not agreeable to their notions of the Creator, therefore say they, "the God of nature cannot be the God of christianity and of revelation. But they should consider that the same things against which they object, in christianity, are, in many instances, found to exist in nature. If revelation tells us that the guilt of Adam has entailed misery on all his descendants,—we see in thousands of families the same thing exemplified, namely, that misery and wretchedness are the natural effects of the guilt and misconduct of parents. If it tells us that all mankind are the servants of sin, "enemies to God in their minds, and by wicked works;" and that punishment will as assuredly follow sin, as effect follows cause, this is only what the history of the world, and daily observation have made perfectly familiar to us. Again;—If christianity tells us of a portion of the human race being elected, or chosen to everlasting life, by the sovereign will of the Almighty, while others, not more guilty, are left to perish in their sins,—this apparently partial procedure, is only such as we perceive every day in the gifts of nature and of fortune. Those who do not believe in revelation, must admit these as the events of nature: so that any impeachment, on these grounds, against the God of christianity, may with equal propriety be urged against the God of nature itself,—therefore, one and the same being may be the God both of christianity and of nature.
But we may even go farther, on this ground, with those who profess to revere him as the God and author of nature, but reject him as the God and author of Christianity. Do we not, for in
stance, often see in nature, apparently, the greatest cruelty, and also injustice? Do we not see, as it were• all nature around us, "groaning and travelling together in pain?" Not only do we see the man who has grown old in sin, going down to the grave, by nature's decree, with labour and sorrow, but even the innocent babe, in nature's fangs, racked and tortured with pain, and yielding to the stroke of " tyrant death." And not only so, but nature has also destined that the brute creation should be a prey to man and to one another. There is hardly any species of inhabitant of the field, or the air, or the sea, but is subjected to the rapacity of man; and how greedily do we see them also devouring one another, from the smallest insect to the largest animal! Look at these things, ye professed admirers of nature, and say, is there any thing in christianity apparently so unworthy of God? Nay, is not christianity the only antidote for the ills that exist in nature? If we therefore believe a Creator God, over all presiding, we must believe his character reconcileal>le,with revealed religion, and with his moral government, and with all the events in nature around us, however incomprehensible to our weak understandings. Let us be assured that the defect lies with us, not with the God of perfection. And in particular, with regard to the Divine administration which is, confessedly, so incomprehensible, vain and foolish is the mortal that would dare to decide, where he cannot unravel. Every tongue ought to be silent, and all human wisdom stand confounded, when we look around us and perceive, in the government of God, that, "these (often) are the ungodly who prosper,"—(Psalm lxxiii. 12.), while the virtuous are groaning under oppression and want; and many things apparently as unjust in the Divine procedure. And, farther,—have we not seen, that in every age, since the creation of the world, it has, in his providence, been but a small portion of the human race who have had any knowledge of God at all i And we have seen also, that among those few nations who have had any knowledge of his revealed character, the number of his chosen, or elect people, has been but " as the grape gleanings of the vintage,"—but as, "one of a city, and two of a family." To our beclouded understandings, this attributes to God, an inconsistent and partial procedure; namely, that a few only should be recovered from the snare of the devil, while the great bulk of his children of mankind, not more guilty than they are left to perish. To attempt a solution of these difficulties would be foolish and