« PoprzedniaDalej »
With respect to its being said, “ The Lord hath made the wicked for the day of evil ;" we are not to understand by this, that their misery was any ultimate end at all with God, in creating them. The contrary he hath solemnly declared, Ezek. xxxiii. 11, “ As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” Neither the destruction, nor the least pain of any creature, however sinful, is pleasing to him for its own sake. He punishes sinners, and made them for that end, only because it is necessary for benevolent designs. Thus, as is ebserved, Rom. ix. 17, " The scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” Now, if thus declaring God's name, were of importance enough to over-balance all the evils brought upon this cruel, haughty, obstinate prince, neither his final destruction, nor his being raised up for that end, was at all inconsistent with God's most glorious benevolence. The same holds true of all other instances of his punishing justice ; and of every link in the chain of Providence, by which such awful events are brought to pass. That the punishment of the wicked was a part of God's eternal plan, and that he made them for the day of evil, in this sense, must be admitted. But that this was only because he saw it necessary for the greatest general good, must be believed, if we believe his word. And in this way, all that is seen or said, of the wrath and vengcance of God, may be accounted for, in a good consistency with the belief that his nature is love : or that, in all things, his ultimate motive is pure benevolence. When he hateth all the workers of iniquity, he bears them no ill will. When he inflicts the most terrible punishments upon them, it is not from any delight he takes in their misery, or from any want of a friendly disposition towards them. As a tender father doth not cease to love an offending child, when most displeased with it, and when, for its own good, or the good of his other children, or for the support of his own authority and honor, he is obliged to punish it; so neither doth the universal Parent cease to love, with benevolence, his rebellious creatures, even the most criminal of them ; though he will not spare them, when, for any good ends, of sufficient importance, their punishment is seen necessary. When his regenerate and adopted children are undutiful to him ; when “ they break his statutes, and keep not his commandments; he will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, his loving kindness he doth not take from them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail.” And though he “ is angry with the wicked every day;" yet he pities them, and often waits long for their repentance, that deserved vengeance may not be executed upon them. Nor are we to imagine that he ceases to be benevolent, even towards those his enemies, who, finally, will not have him to reign over them, and whom he casts off for ever.
5. As far as we are able of ourselves to judge what is right, it must be believed, that all the moral perfections of God are comprehended in benevolence, if we believe him altogether glorious. Nothing but this, or what proceeds from this, I am persuaded, can be approved by any man's conscience, when well considered, as a moral perfection. Anger; wrath, vengeance, are amiable, when benevolence inspires them, and when good only, is ultimately intended by them. On the other hand, when this is not the case, even truth and justice, do not commend themselves to the feelings of the most upright man, I presume, as being laudable. If need be, the truth should be spoken, and justice should be done ; but when there is no need of it, what glory can there be in speaking the one, or in doing the other? Be
nevolence, according to common sense, is the soul of every virtue, or moral excellency.
Not that a good end, will sanctify unrighteous means ; as some have infered from the benevolent system. Truth must never be violated, nor injustice done ; because either of these would be destructive of general good. If men were at liberty to speak falsely or defraud, whenever they might think it would do more good than hurt, in particular cases, we could have no confidence in one another; and no man's property, or reputation, or life, would be in any safety. And if it were possible for God to lie, or to treat his creatures unrighteously, we could never trust in him, or know what to expect from him. Still, however, that neither justice nor truth, nor any thing else, is a virtue in man, or a moral perfection in God, further than it proceeds from a benevolent disposition, I believe, when duly thought of, must be the decision of every man's conscience. That God is love, as now explained, seems necessary to be believed, in order to a rational conviction of his being altogether lovely.
We will now pay a brief attention to the former part of our text ; and inquire how it is to be under. stood, that be that loveth not, knoweth not God.
By him that loveth not, is evidently meant, one who has no true benevolence : nothing, in exercise or principle, of that love which is the fulfilling of the law. And under this character, it is plain, the apostle means to comprehend every unregenerate sinner : for in the next preceding verse he says,
“ Every one that loveth, is born of God.”
But we are not to understand, that natural men, however entirely destitute of true benevolence, are incapable of every kind of knowledge of the Supreme Being. Of his natural perfections—his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, they may have as
just conceptions as good men have. And they may have some idea and conviction of God's moral perfections—his justice, truth and goodness.
There are two respects, however, in which it may be truly said, “ He that loveth not knoweth not God.”
1. Compared with good men, he has not a clear conception of what is meant by the divine benevolence.. We get the idea of many things by experience, with an exactness which can no other
be obtained. Of one who has never felt hard pain, we say, He knows nothing what it is. We say the same of one who has never experienced parental affection. That no one can get the full idea of these feelings, without experiencing them, is indisputable. Thus also we get the most perfect knowledge of human nature. The apostle to the Corinthians says, “ What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man that is in him.” He adds,
He adds, “ Even so, the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” Any endeavors to explain the divine benevolence, to one who has not been transformed into the likeness of it, by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, must be somewhat, though not altogether, like attempting to give a blind man an idea of colors. The unrenewed, from the experience they have of humane compassion, of love for near relations, and of other partial friendships, may have some very faint partial idea of the feelings of Him who is good to all. Still however, they will be exceedingly apt to conceive of God, as though he were altogether such an one as themselves. Any one may be convinced, from analogy in other matters, that those who have been created after God in true holiness, will thence be able to form an idea of the holiness of God, with a degree of correctness, of which the unholy are incapable. But,
2. There is a kind of knowledge of God, which is entirely peculiar to good men. I mean, a heart-felt knowledge of his amiableness. He that loveth not, and has no disposition to God-like love, can have no delightful perception of any of the divine attributes ; however well they might be speculatively understood. This is that perception of which the apostle speaks, 2 Cor. iv. 6, “ For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ." This kind of knowledge, none but men of an honest and good heart, can possibly have. The carnal Jews had raised expectations of their promised glorious Messiah ; yet, on his actual appearance, they received him not. It proved as was foretold in Isaiah : “ When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him : He is despised and rejected.” The reason is obvious. Their desires of salvation, and his saving designs, were far from coinciding. And a like opposition there always is, between the purposes of God, and the wishes of fallen men. He is good to all ; they want to have him good only to themselves, and to their friends. He proposes to make them happy by turning them from their iniquities : it is their heart's desire and prayer, to have earthly richés and power, and liberty to enjoy the pleasures of sin.
To a mind universally benevolent, the universal benevolence of the great Parent of all, appears glorious : but to a man of a totally selfish or partial disposition, it cannot so appear. No one can be pleased with a disposition in another to promote, that which he cares nothing about, or wishes not to have promoted.
Let us now see what useful inferences will follow, from the subject we have been considering:
1. From the things last said we may leain, that there is no impropriety in attempting to instruct the