« AnteriorContinuar »
That these invisible beings should instan- by him, I say, whether they be things in taneously fall from a state of purity and earth, or things in heaven," Colossians i. bliss, into one of rebellion against their 19, 20. Creator, and malevolence against their Had Jehovah in his dispensation towards fellow.creatures, is utterly improbable. Is these unhappy beings, excluded the opeit not, therefore, more than probable, that ration of mercy, we might reverse the sentheir fall from holiness to sin, from happi. tence of James, and say, that judgment ness to misery, was not the result of any rejoiceth against mercy. To his tribunal original defect, nor of any obliquity in their they are amenable, and to suppose that no constitution, but that it was gradual ; their preparatory overture of mercy was offered, own act and deed, and by no means une is to separate in idea the divine justice and avoidable; that it proceeded first from the mercy; attributes invariably co-operative disuse, and then from the misapplication, in all the dispensations of providence. of a power, the exercise of which would Hence, the Supreme Judge assigns thrones have terminated their probation, and led to of judgment to his saints, Matthew xix. 28. a confirmation in glory.
1 Corinthians, vi. 2, that, as his assessors Did any overture of mercy intervene in the decisions of the last day, they may between the revolt of these creatures and proclaim to the universe, that the Judge of their consignment to eternal condemnation ? all the earth hath done right. From the inspired volume we learn, 1st, “ Know ye not,” says St. Paul, 1 Corinthat they were created by Jesus Christ; thians, vi. 3,“ that we shall judge angels ?” 2ndly, that by him they will be judged; and But can we, who lived in practical enmity 3dly, that through him also an overture of against our Creator, and by redeeming mercy mercy preceded their final appearance at were plucked as brands out of the fire, can his tribunal.
we say Amen to a sentence which eternally 1st. “By him were all things created, that excludes from bliss, delinquents, in whose are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible behalf merciful interposition ever and invisible, whether they be thrones, or appeared ? dominions, or principalities, or powers; all We cannot conceive that the Almighty things were created by him," Colossians, would exclude the operation of mercy in i. 16.
the condemnation of these angels; nor that 2ndly. “ The Father judgeth no one, he would excl'de the operation of justice 80kva, but hath committed all judgment to in overtures of reconciliation ; and the abthe Son, that all havtec should honour the surdity of supposing that two Mediators Son even as they honour the Father,” John would be necessary between the Deity and v. 22, 23. Here all judgment is committed offenders, is such as renders the mention of to the Son, that of angels not excepted. In it almost unnecessary. But, by the manithe original, neither the word man nor men fold wisdom of God, the death of his wellappears, which likewise indicates that this beloved Son is exhibited to the astonish. judgment is not confined to human beings; ment of the universe, as the only effectual of which also we have a further confirmation method to demonstrate his indignation in the 6th verse of the Epistle of Jude, who against sin, and his mercy towards penitent says, “ that the angels, which kept not their offenders. The merits of this Divine Medifirst_estate, but left their own habitation, ator are as extensive as the universe, and the Lord hath reserved in everlasting chains as lasting as eternity; and lest we should under darkness unto the judgment of the restrict this dispensation to our world, the great day.”
scripture informs us that Jesus was seen of 3dly. “ This Judge is also a lawgiver, angels, 1 Timothy, iii. 16, and that the who is able to save and to destroy,” James angels desire to look into these things, iv. 12. An awful defect indeed would it 1 Peter, i. 12. be in a Divine Lawgiver, if he were not Why was Christ, the Father's best gift to able to save; and if he were, it would be trangressors, Christ, who shed his precious tremendous, were he to enter into judgment blood to render the throne of grace acceswith the works of his own hands, and to sible, and, by the same expiatory act, to suffer that salutary power to remain inope.
establish it in righteousness and judgment ; rative. “There is then a just God, and a why was he foreordained as a vicarious Saviour," Isaiah xlv. 21, “ therefore, sen- sacrifice for sin, before the foundation of tence against an evil work is not executed the world, 1 Peter, i. 20, if offenders who speedily-for it pleased the Father that in existed previously to that period were prehim should all fulness 'dwell ; and having cluded from this dispensation of mercy, made peace through the blood of his cross, and those who existed subsequently were by him to reconcile all things to himself; not?
By faith in a promised Redeemer, Abel the world as very man, he said, “ Let all offered a more acceptable sacritice to God the angels of God worship him," Ilebrews, than Cain, by which he obtained not only i. 6. And yet again, " That at the name a divine witness that he was righteous, but of Jesus every knee should bow, of things also a crown of righteousness. It is, there- in heaven, and things in earth, and things fore, reasonable to conclude, that as this under the earth; and that every tongue gracious interposition was influential four should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to thousand years previous to the Saviour's the glory of God the Father,” Philippians, manifestation in the flesh, it was also influ- ii. 10, 11. The conclusion, therefore, is ential from the period of its fore-ordination. legitimate, that the opposition of the fallen The sacrifice of Cain was not that of a angels to this decree made the sight of the sinner,—it had no reference to the promised Saviour insufferable. Messiah ; it was faithless, self-righteous, “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” and bloodless, and to it succeeded an act Yes, but we have no conception of any disof fratricide; after which Cain became a pensation that reconciles us to their eternal fugitive and a vagabond on the earth : a condemnation, except that, in which“ mercy proof this, more than presumptive, that and truth are met together, righteousness the last act, which confirms a sinner in a and peace have kissed each other,” Psalm state of obduracy, whether existing before. lxxxv. 10. Here we discover, that without or after the foundation of the world, is the the concurrence of the three following rejection of mercy.
causes, no being can be finally unhappy : Some persons will probably ask, was it 1st. A departure from God. 2ndly. An possible then that Christ should interpose opposition to his will. 3rdly. A rejection in the behalf of fallen angels ? Recollect, of his mercy. Therefore, instead of conHe created them, He will judge them. The cluding that the introduction of moral evil good Matthew Henry, in his comment on and misery into the universe is inexplicable, Genesis iv. 7, says,
« From this scripture we on the contrary conclude, that it would we see, that there is not a damned soul in be eternally inexplicable, and astonishing hell, if he had done well, as he might have beyond astonishment, if creatures could done, but would have been a glorified saint have continued in a state of moral goodness in heaven.”. A truth, so perfectly conge- and felicity, after they had departed from nial with the unfathomable love of the God, the only source of these blessings, and Creator, and so accordant with the decla. then refused to return to him. ration, that “ He is good to all, and his That the origin of moral evil and misery tender mercies are over all his works,” Psalm among human beings is to be accounted for cxlv. 9, that the devils themselves give in the same way, is manifest from the folattestation to it.
lowing scriptures. “Be astonished, 0 ye On what other principle can we account heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be for their exclamation, “ What have we to ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For my do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God : we people have committed two evils ; they know thee, who thou art; art thou come to have forsaken me, the Fountain of living torment us before the time ?” Does not waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken this acknowledgment evidently indicate, cisterns that can hold no water,” Jeremiah, that they had rejected his mercy, bad re- ii. 12, 13. “Lo, this only have I found, fused to return to the sway of his sceptre, that God made man upright, but they have and now dreaded the approach of that sought out many inventions,” Ecclesiastes judgment from which they expected an
vii. 29. increase of torment ?
By some it is asserted, that man was When angels were called into existence, redeemed because seduced by the wicked there can be no doubt that their supreme one; but that Satan and his angels were adoration was, by the Almighty, directed left unredeemed, because they departed to Him by whom all things were made. from their Creator without the co-operation “ Worship him, all ye gods,” Psalm xcvii. 7. of any external cause whatever.
But most “ Praise him above, ye heavenly host ;” or, assuredly, man, as well as angels, had a as the Septuagint expresses it, a pookuvyoate power to retain his purity and bliss by αυτω παντες αγγελοι αυτο. . “ Worship tinuing in a state of union with the blessed him, all ye angels." And when this same God, and his revolt can be ascribed only to Divine Person was foreordained and an- the causes already mentioned ; first, the disnounced as Mediator before the foundation use, and then the consequent misapplication, of the world, the same glorious injunction of that power. Moreover, our first parents was most probably repeated ; and again, were fortified against the devices of Satan. when Jehovah brought his first-begotten into The Creator commanded them to abstain
from the tree of the knowledge of good and we have no reason to expect mercy from evil ; consequently, he gave them power Him, whose character is set before us, by to comply, and to suppose the contrary, pen of inspiration, in the most concise would be a reflection on the divine since. and comprehensive manner that words can rity, and, if true, an annibilation of the convey, « God is love ?" crime. It would be to represent the Father It has been suggested by persons, of of mercies as inflicting misery on Adam whose piety there is no doubt, that when and his posterity, for the violation of a God foresees that the gift of redeeming grace command which man had no power to would increase the misery of those who obey.
would turn it into lasciviousness, it is mercy By others it has been assumed, that the to withhold it, for then is their misery less crime of these angelic apostates was so great than otherwise it would be. But, unquesas to preclude the possibility of any mer- tionably, the prevention of misery is preciful interposition : but does not such an ferable to the diminution of it. If then to assumption contradict the inspired truth, withhold redeeming mercy would diminish “ that mercy rejoiceth against judgment ?" misery, to withhold existence would totally James ii. 13, Let the truth, therefore, re. prevent it. But God hath introduced us verberate through the universe, of a com- into life, and our existence is a proof of passionate God, that mercy rejoiceth against our redemption. For existence imposed, judgment, and will continue to rejoice till and redemption withheld, would be certain rejected.
destruction. We, therefore, venture to reIf then a gracious overture interposed assert, that no being can be finally unhappy, between the crime of these invisible Trans- unless he depart from his Creator, oppose gressors, and their final condemnation, was his authority, and reject his mercy, it possible that God should not remember The belief, therefore, that the Mediator man in his low estate ? Some good men between the Father of mercies and offenders, assert that his remembrance extends to has consigned to irremediable ruin the angels only a part of the human family. The who kept not their first estate, having prereason assigned is, that God in justice might viously precluded them from the benefiis of have passed by all; therefore it is no im- his mediation, represents them less guilty peachment of his justice to say that he has than the finally impenitent sinner. On this passed by some, and that it greatly mag- hypothesis angels are punished because they nifies his mercy towards those who are the departed from the Creator, and opposed his recipients of it, because they had no more government. But the punishment of human claim on the divine compassion than the offenders actually arises from the cause persons on whom this act of preterition had assigned by the Redeemer, “ Ye would not passed.
come to me, that you might have life.” This sentiment will not bear the light. To assert, therefore, that the origin of The Almighty gave a command to our moral evil is unaccountable, is to ascribe original parents to be fruitful and multiply, also to the two circumstances already men. and to replenish the earth; a command tioned, a mystery which would for ever which has never been repealed, but repeated, remain unfathomable. For then, to what Genesis ix. 1. And from the time that cause can we ascribe the limitation of moral moral evil and misery were introduced into evil, seeing that numbers escaped the conthis world to the present, he has called into tagion, who were originally placed in the existence unnumbered millions of account- same circumstances with those who aposable and immortal beings, every one of tatized ? And again, why are some fallen whom, in consequence of Adam's trans- intelligences in a state in which salvation is gression, comes into life with such spiritual possible, and others in a state in which it privations, natural imperfections, and carnal is impossible ? propensities ; and meets with such dan- To leave this subject totally in the dark, gerous oppositions, both from human and seems to be a tacit reflection either on the infernal enemies, as would, without some divine goodness or power; as if God either gracious communication and counteraction, would not, or could not, prevent the introinevitably lead the soul to everlasting per- duction of sin and misery among his dition.
creatures. Can it, therefore, be said that we, who The person, therefore, who will elucidate are brought into life by the command of this awful subject more satisfactorily, will heaven, and are reduced to our present thereby “ assert eternal providence, and state of depravity, danger, and debility, by justify the ways of God” with the works of an act of disobedience committed thousands his own hands.
J. B. of years before our birth, can it be said that Gloucester, March 7th, 1831.
THE CHRISTIAN'S HOPE.
stitions were practised by every nation. It
was impossible for man to behold the " Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul,
grandeur of the scenes around him, the both sure and steadfast."-Heb. vi. 19.
variety and yet beautiful order displayed in Nothing is more painful or dangerous the works of nature, without feeling that than uncertainty, while the distress and dan- there was a superior being every where ger increase, as they affect objects of greater present, at once the maker and preserver of moment. Nor can aught be compared in all things. More especially would such a importance to a knowledge of the duties conviction arise in his mind, whenever he and destinies of the immortal part of our observed, in the dispensations of providence, being. Of this knowledge man has always how generally vice entailed disgrace and been in some measure ignorant, when left misery, while virtue was found to be the exclusively to reason, on account of wilful only source and condition of happiness. transgressions and his love of sin.
But as vice is always most predominant in Soon after his creation, he departed from the natural state of man, conscience dreaded the living God, and the wrath of Heaven those punishments wbich it knew to be just, swept him from the earth. Untaught by the and preferred a penance inflicted in this world, repeated manifestations of Jehovah in his to the prospect of eternal anguish. Thus it displeasure towards iniquity, he again for- was that idolatry and priesteraft had such a sook his Maker, till, as a just punishment gigantic influence over the fears of man; and for his wickedness, he was given up to his the most dreadful sacrifices were performed, own ignorance and hardness of heart. Thus, to avert a merited retribution. not only a spirit of love to the Most High, Deceased ancestors, who had distinguished but even a knowledge of their Creator, was themselves for virtues, real or imaginary, far from the sons of men, and they soon supplanted Jehovah, and were worshipped became buried in the loathsomeness of as gods, either from a terror of the Almighty, superstition and vice. And if mercy had or a hope that intercessors might be pronot been the peculiar attribute of Him who vided, who, knowing human frailty, would formed the heavens, the whole race of not be too severe censors of vice. Then, human beings would to this time have pre- according to that system of philosophy, sented one deplorable scene of idolatry and which imagined life to be only the essence ignorance.
of the Creator, all living creatures were It is true, that even among the heathens thought to carry about in them those para some degree of information respecting truth ticles of divinity which constitute the soul, prevailed, though it was often greatly dis- and as such were supposed to be the most figured with error. By contemplation and worthy objects of worship, as they were reason, heathen philosophers premised many visible vehicles of the Deity. Others, more opinions respecting the nature of the soul, rationally, with the roving Indians on their which shew that reason is not so much mountain summits, adored opposed to revelation on such subjects, as
“ One great, good Spirit, in his bigh abode, modern sceptics aver. Herodotus, in his And thence their incense and orisons poured Euterpe, tells us, that the Egyptians held
To his pervading presence, that abroad “ that the soul of man was immortal."
They felt through all his works—their Father,
King, and God. And Tacitus, in his history of the Jews,
" And in the mountain inist, the torrent's spray, book v, writes, “ They buried rather than
The quivering forest, or the glassy flood, burnt their bodies, after the manner of the
Soft falling showers, or hues of orient day,
They imaged spirits beautiful and good ; Egyptians; they having the same regard
But when the tempest roared with voices rude, and persuasion concerning the dead." This Or tierce red lightning tired the forest pine, was received as a truth by Plato and other
Or withering heats untimely seared the wood,
The angry forms they saw of powers malign; philosophers. Neither was there wanting a These they besought to spare, those blest for aid conviction that a day of retribution would divine,'
Eastburn's Yamoyden. come, at the end of all things, when the good and the wicked would be rewarded But amidst all the horrors to which they or punished according to their actions in were subject from a consciousness of guilt, this world. We find this conviction ex- and the painful expiations to which they were pressed in the writings of most of the an- required to submit, it is evident that to them cients, who justly concluded that it was at the ways of religion were not “the paths of once a powerful incentive to virtue, and a peace.” Whatever philosophers advanced restraint on vice. Hence the fictitious de. on the nature of the soul, its future state, scriptions of Tartarus and Elysium. and the attributes of the Deity, they could
It was undoubtedly through the preva- not but reflect that they were mere points of lence of these opinions, that religious super- speculation. No one could admit those as 20, SERIES, no. 5.-VOL. I,
certain truths, which nought but revelation the man-slayer might flee for safety. Every could seal. The idolatrous ceremonies of facility of escape was to be granted, and priests might awe the minds of the vulgar, the city itself to be denominated a city of and in some cases restrain from the com- refuge. This benevolent provision, under mission of sin, but they were not powerful the old testament dispensation, was the incitements to virtue. Hence the fear of type of a more merciful one illustrated in punishment seldom extended farther than the new. Man, as a sinner, was declared human laws or probabilities; and in the to be a murderer, and consequently under perplexities of ignorance, a certain enjoy- the penalties of a just law. This law, it was ment was preferred to resting upon the shewn, would pursue the culprit, and, if doubtful truths of a future day of retribution. overtaken before he reached that refuge The knowledge of God and the duty of prepared for him, it would inflict on him man, as unfolded by reason, were too feeble the dreadful sentence of death. Eternal to hold out any assurance of safety or misery and everlasting bliss were set before peace; and death was always terrible to him, his danger revealed, and the means of him who knew not by what means eternal obtaining a safe deliverance pointed out, that happiness could be procured. There was a he might, in full confidence of the immutahope wanting, which could guide him into bility of Jehovah, fee for refuge to the hope the paths of virtue, and soothe his last set before him, “which hope we have as ai hours with the prospect of bliss that should anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast.” last for ever.
It is sure, because it springs from pure This hope has, however, been revealed to and fervent faith, for “ without faith it is man. The nature of his being has been impossible to please God." There may be described, the attributes of his Maker un- presumptions arising either from visionary folded, a correct distinction drawn between views of the subject
, or from that apathy virtue and vice, the way of redemption and which is so fatally delusive; but these are salvation pointed out, and the future state false, and will prove themselves, in the of the wicked and jusi, distinctly described. decisive hour, to be totally wanting in seSuch revealed truths as these, are indeed an curity. This hope, likewise, as an anchor anchor to that soul, which was driven to is steadfast, because it is immoveably fixed and fro by the perplexities of ignorance on that rock, emphatically styled the Rock and speculation. In the midst of distress of ages, since all the storms and tempests and uncertainty the message of hope un- that have agitated the ocean of life have folds, on its immoveable basis, the prospect never been able to prevail against it. The of eternal happiness ; a hope which, de- Redeemer of mankind is the rock on which spising the pageantry and folly of this world, the church is built, and the rock on which aspires above those objects of sense which the anchor of hope can alone rest steadfast lead man to temptation and sin. For, with and secure. And if he is regarded not only Cowper, we may exclaim
as the Son of man, but as Jehovah himself, “ Hope, with uplisted foot set free from earth, so that we may fervently utter with the
Pants for the place of her ethereal birth ; psalmist, “My hope is in thee;"'then shall
we possess that anchor of the soul, which And crowns the soul, while yet a mourner here, is sure and steadfast—sure, because it With wreaths like those triumphant spirits wear."
springs from faith; and steadfa because it But it is possible, as experience testifies, is fixed upon a rock that can never be that the mind may receive a knowledge of moved.
J. A. B. those truths given to man by revelation, and Beaconsfield. yet neglect to secure that hope which the scriptures point out. Hope is the anchor of the soul, but it must arise from the most certain convictions, or it will be of no avail. The minds of the heathens were perplexed The island now called Malta, (in the New and their lives vicious, because their religion Testament, Melita,) was that on which the depended on uncertain speculations. But great apostle Paul, and his shipwrecked those to whom the scriptures are delivered companions, were cast, in their disastrous are almost as far from the possession of that voyage to Italy. The inhabitants are called hope, who have never earnestly endeavoured barbarians, a term by which the Greeks to know and practise the means of sal- and Romans constantly designated all man. vation.
kind, except themselves. But if they had When the Israelites possessed the land of not much refinement, they had something Canaan, we read that they were com- far more valuable, humanity ; for they manded to appoint certain cities whither treated the unfortunate strangers with no
PAUL AT MELITA.