Изображения страниц

sality and equality of divine benevolence to persons. Justice is an exercise of goodness, goodness emanating from divine essential love. Neither justice nor goodness, strictly conceived, can exist in God, without a dependent person for their object. Divine goodness primarily exists as the modus of will; we call it good-will in respect of giving existence to such an object, and benevolence in the same respect involves justice; but I think justice could not be a principle of divine causation without benevolence; for no creature has an essential right to claim existence. Dependent persons actually existing, divine distributive justice towards them seems an exercise of benevolence consistently with wisdom. Impartial justice, and impartial benevolence, I judge to be equally divine attributes. Justice and benevolence are never opposites, or oppose each other, but do always unite. It is not evident to me that negative or privative causes at one end of the beam can only be counteracted by benevolence at the other; for, positive causes are certainly adequate, and the only kind of objects suitable in nature, as a counterpoise, to keep the balance in equilibrium-to sustain its vibration-or to effect a proportionable preponderation. Therefore, I cannot assent to your inference, that whoever on earth rises to right action, and is confirmed in virtue, his attainment must be the effect of exclusive benevolence.

Pedaiah. I will consider of what you have advanced in reply: In the mean while probably we shall, without exception, agree, That the only possible way of surmounting moral


evil, and its ruinous consequences, is to reve rence God, and obey his commandments;* or, more particularly, First, It is to bias our fu ture volitions by humble endeavour, towards repentance of past sin, submission to divine requirements, union to God, and imitation of his moral perfections, according to his most merciful constitution for ruling us: Secondly, That to human persons, however sunk in guilt and depravity, yet within the space of hope, prayer to God for free favours, undeserved favours, and benevolent influence, is an exercise the most becoming, a duty the most needful, and a privilege which God himself has made, in the highest degree, interesting. And, lastly, That where humble endeavour and prayer exist, in any degree exist, we ration, ally ascribe it to divine mercy.

Nehemiah. I cheerfully acquiesce.

Othniel. I heartily concur.-But, there is a consequent of the partial-God system which I doubt my dear Pedaiah is not apprized of, or has not duly considered, namely, that it represents God as exercising duplicity, if not hypocrisy.

Pedaiah. Am I to understand, that you suppose, there are passages of the sacred writings which do not coincide with my assumption, that God exercises merely equity towards some persons, with the addition of no more benevolence than is essential to their mere existence; while to other persons he exercises benevo lence, connected with unspeakably good consequences thereof, and for ever?

Othniel. Yes.-Permit me to instance a few

Eccles. xii. 13.


passages which tropically represent God the Father, and his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, as wishing the obedience and true repentance of sinners further than had existed. Deut. xxxii. 29. "O that they were wise, that they understood this: that they would consider their latter end."-Psalm lxxxi. 13, 14. "O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways: I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.”—Isaiah xlviii. 18. “ Ŏ that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea."-Hosea xi. 8. "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together."-Matt. xxiii. 37. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"-Luke xix. 41, 42. "Jesus-beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes." "I conceive that we are warranted to judge that Ephraim, Israel, and Jerusalem, in their most extended use, represent people under divine revelation in all times and places; and that in their most special use they represent spiritual worshippers of God according to revealed truth. I judge these passages to respect the first class, and fully applicable to persons

0 2

persons who are, in our day, favoured with the gospel. If the reason, some are in such lamentable case as represented, is the non-extension of divine love and benevolence towards them, as persons, how can such language be addressed unto them without duplicity and insincerity ?

Pedaiah. The words in these passages," are to be understood of things temporal, and not of what concerns the spiritual and eternal welfare of any."-"The words are not to be understood of the internal work of grace and conversion, and of spiritual and evangelical obedience springing from it, which would have been attended with spiritual and eternal blessings; but of an external obedience to God's commands, which would have been followed with temporal favours; such as subduing their enemies under them, feeding them with the finest of the wheat, and satisfying them with honey out of the rock."

Othniel. In proof, that under the old and new testament nothing less was required of God to appropriate even temporal prosperity, than the heart, or a renewed soul, from numer ous portions that present themselves, I select, Deut. v. 28, 29. "They have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!" I select also, Jer. iv. 3, 4. "Thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskin of your


hearts, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings." I select also, Matt. xxiii. 23. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith." I will also add, 1 Tim. iv. 8. "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is."-But, whether the language is extended to divine requirement of the heart, or restrained to merely a good civil deportment, as connected with temporal welfare, they cannot be uttered with sincerity; if a design to treat those persons with mere equity or seve rity was in whole, or in part, the reason of their bad character; or uttered without, I had almost said, hypocrisy.

Pedaiah. Some great authorities read the former portions of scripture as merely hypothetical sentences, excluding any expression of wish, thus: If my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways, I should, &c. They read also the place in Hosea, as excluding affectionate reluctance, and the words of our Lord Jesus as excluding divine lamentation over the inhabitants of Jerusalem : and thus all these passages of scripture are rendered mere affirmations of connection between antecedent conduct and consequent welfare or calamities.

Othniel. I presume equal if not greater authorities read the words as expressing wish, reluctance, and lamentation. I grant that wish, reluctance, and lamentation, can only by metaphor

0 3

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »