Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

offending sinner is not only justified and acquitted, but qualified for the happiness of heaven and raised to the eternal enjoyment of it. “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God,” the great apostle of the gentiles represents as the epitome of his preaching.–And any system of religion which exhibits salvation by Christ as a scheme which human wisdom might devise or provide for, is unquestionably false; and he who has never seen the wonderful wisdom of God, as manifested in every part of this great salvation,” is yet in that blindness in which, according to St. Paul, the god of this world holds those who believe not.

The next attribute or perfection of God mentioned in the answer before us, is his power. The omnipotence of the Deity is conspicuous in all the works of creation and providence. When we look at the visible universe, and recollect that there was a period in which it had no existence, and that it sprang into being at the word of the Almighty-how are we lost in astonishment at the power which could produce such an effect? The formation of something out of nothing, is indeed an operation incomprehensible to the human mind. Hence the atheism of philosophers, both ancient and modern: they have professed to believe matter eternal, because they could not comprehend how it should be formed out of nothing. Yet they have been driven into absurdities unspeakably gross, and even ridiculous, on every hypothesis which they have ever been able to form. The truth is, that exertion of Almighty power by which the material universe was called out of nothing into existence, although indeed incomprehensible, is not incredible, if we admit the being and perfections of the Deity. These admitted, creation by the power of God, affords infinitely the most rational and the most credible account of the origin of all other beings, that ever was or can be given“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth-He said let there be light and there was lightHe spake and it was done. He commanded and it stood fast."

The same power which created, is necessary to preserve and uphold the universe. The laws of nature are words without a meaning, if they are not intended to express the will or appointment of the Deity. Whether we do, or do not maintain, that preservation is a constant creation, we must admit that all things depend on God, are ordered according to his sovereign will, exactly fulfil his purposes, and will cease their operations whenever he shall please. The revolution of the seasons; the succession of day and night; the fertility of the earth, and all the secondary causes that produce it; a salubrious or a pestilential atmosphere; winds and tornadoes; thunder and storm; earthquakes, volcanoes, and inundations; are all ordered and directed by the God of providence. Yea, “a sparrow falleth not to the ground,” nor a hair from our heads,“ without our heavenly Father.” To believe this, is surely as comfortable as it is pious.

Nor must we forget the illustrious display of the almighty power of God in the glorious work of man's redemption. It was manifested in " laying the chief corner stone, in the union of the human nature with the person of the eternal Son of God; in supporting Him under the inconceivable load of divine wrath, for our sins; and in spoiling principalities and powers, in that very nature which Satan had vanquished at first.” Hence the Redeemer is called the “power," as well as “the wisdom of God.” Hence he is denominated “the arm of the Lord," and “the man of his right hand.”

We proceed to consider the Holiness of God. Holiness is sometimes used to denote the aggregate of the moral perfections of the Deity, and sometimes as indicating a distinct attribute. It is manifestly used in the latter sense, in the answer before us; because the moral perfections of God are immediately and severally enumerated. “Taken in this limited

sense, (says Dr. Witherspoon) it is extremely difficult to define or explain. Holiness is that character of God, to which veneration, or the most profound reverence in us, is the correspondent affection. It is also sometimes expressed by purity.” “ Holiness” — says Erskine and Fletcher, in what is called* “the Synod's Catechism,” and to which I own myself indebted in these lectures, for many useful thoughts -Holiness is that essential rectitude, or integrity of the divine nature, whereby he infinitely delights in his own purity, and in every thing agreeable to his will, and hath a perfect hatred and abhorrence of every thing contrary to it. God is as necessarily holy, as he is necessarily God—“Who shall not fear before thee, O Lord; for thou only art holy." He hath put, as it were, a peculiar honour on his own holiness, inasmuch as he singles it out as the attribute to swear by for the accomplishment of his promises and threatenings—“Once I have sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David.” Finite creatures, even of the highest order, are not able to behold the brightness of this attribute, in their Creator: For when the angels themselves view his infinite holiness, as manifested in Christ, they are represented as covering their faces with their wings. Every thing pertaining to God bears the impress of

his holiness. He is said to be holy in all his works· his word is holy; his covenant, or promise is holy;

his Sabbath is holy; his people are holy; his ininistering spirits are the holy angels; and the place where he specially dwells is the high and holy place. The greatest opposite of the holiness of God is sin; and the highest display of his holiness in the hatred

In the use of the catechism here mentioned, the author has sometimes taken the language of the book, and at other times he has changed it, or intermixed it with his own. He has placed the marks of quotation where he has made no change in the expression, but not where a change has been made. He wishes it may be remembered that where marks of quotation appear, without a distinct re. ference to an author, the proper reference is to this catechism; and he hopes that the explanation here given is sufficient to prevent the charge of any unfairness.

of sin was, in hiding his face from his own beloved Son, as bearing our iniquity.

The next divine attribute, in the enumeration before us, is the justice of God. Justice has been defined_66 an invarible determination to render to all their due."* In the Deity, it is that essential attribute of his nature, by which he is infinitely righteous or equitable in himself, and in all his dispensations and awards towards his creatures. The justice of God is manifested in giving laws, perfectly holy, just and good, to all his rational and moral creatures, and in his rendering to them their due, according to law, without respect of persons. Hence when angels sinned, they were cast down to hell, and are reserved in chains of darkness to the judgment of the great day: And when man sinned, he would inevitably have shared in the same awful doom, if the wisdom of God, in union with his mercy, had not provided a way to answer the demands of his justice, by the vicarious atonement of Christ our Saviour

-a way in which God can be just, and yet the justifier of every one that believeth in Jesus—" He who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

In speaking of the divine justice, I must take a passing notice of what has been called the vindictive justice of God; but which I would rather call his vindicatory justice, because the term vindictive is now, I think, scarcely used but in a bad sense. The point in debate--for it has been much debated-is, whether we have reason to believe that it belongs to the divine justice, to punish transgression without regard to consequences, that is, to the ultimate benefit of the transgressor, or to the example as a warning to others. On this I remark in the first place, that it is impossible for us to know whether every instance of the punishment of transgression which can ever take place, may not be connected with the good of the whole intelligent and moral creation of God: For

* Witherspoon.

aught we know this may be so; although the manner in which it takes place may not be discernible by us. Nay, the whole force of inductive reasoning, seems to me to be in favour of the belief, that such is really the fact In the mean time, the sense of ill desert, which natural conscience produces in our minds whenever we do what we know to be wrong, makes guilt, simply in itself, the proper object of punishment. And if guilt, when only imputed, caused such dreadful sufferings as it did, when the sinless Saviour stood in the sinner's place, we cannot rationally believe that it is consistent with the divine justice, that it should ever go unpunished. This, my young friends, is a principle which enters deeply into the whole system of gospel truth. Almost all loose and dangerous opinions in religion may be traced to a light sense of the inherent evil of sin;—to a false notion that the justice of God does not always require its punishment, or expiation. Dr. Owen has written a most able treatise on this subject, which, if it should fall in your way, I advise you carefully to peruse. It was written in Latin, and the English translation is not a good one; but it will serve to give you a view of the powerful arguments by which the vindicatory justice of God is maintained.

We come now, in the next place, to consider the goodness of God. This perfection implies a disposition in the Deity to communicate happiness to all his creatures. The goodness of God appears in all his works; in creation, in providence, and pre-eminently, in the work of redemption.

No one who observes attentively the common appearances of nature; not only the revolution of the seasons and the succession of day and night, but the abundance which the earth produces, for the support both of man and beast; the admirable provision made in the organization of every animal, to enable it to acquire its proper food, to propagate and preserve its species, and to guard itself against its natural enemy; and the actual gratification and enjoyment experienced by every creature that has life; no one who

« ForrigeFortsæt »