Page images
PDF
EPUB

be to thy husband,” (Gen. iii. 16,) said their Creator to the first woman. We cannot therefore but think, that our hearty desire should be to the Lord of the universe, if any difference; as the prophet says, “ The desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee," (Isai. xxvi. 8,)-considering his infinite power and perfect disposal of us. “For thus saith the Lord, Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine, O house of Israel. At what time I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said, I would benefit them." (Jer. xriji. 6-11.) “ And it shall come to pass in that day, that THE REMNANT OF ISRAEL, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob shall no more again stay upon him that smote them, but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people, Israel, be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them (only) shall return : THE CONSUMPTION DECREED* shall overflow with righteousness.” (Isai. x. 20, &c.) And going farther back than the calling of Israel, we shall find limitations and exceptions also occurring in the primitive selection from mankind; namely of the seed of the woman to bruise the serpent's head (Gen. iii. 15) generally, as we should understand it; whereas there appears to have been only one of human production that ever did this effectually, and only those who are chosen in him that do it any how; the multitudes who are called ineffectually being exceptions foreknown or anticipated in the original plan of redemption and salvation.

* What is required for the kingdom.

For an exception may be understood as well as the rule or decree to which it relates : and nothing can be surer than they are both, that is both rule and exception, in the way of salvation. There is a certain chain of causes and consequences designed for this purpose, with as certain exceptions, descending from heaven to earth, and from the first moment or impulse to the end of time; which the Creator will not, and the creature cannot-alter. And the great work of salvation proceeds accordingly, maturing every day, and to be some day complete; but not for one man or another independently of circumstances, as some imagine : it is for one and all who can obtain it by coming within the terms of the covenant which God has given or commanded for ever in respect of that great end. So we should look upon every minor and intermediate blessing that befalls us, neither as the consequence of our merit, nor as an extemporary conception of its heavenly Author, but as a consequence of his ETERNAL DECREE : whereby

the Lord ordereth a good man's going, and maketh his way acceptable to himself,” (Ps. xxxvii. 23,) as David says; and again, “ Thou preparest their heart, and thine ear hearkeneth thereto.” (Ib. x. 19.)

This may indeed be said to be a happy change, and a fair beginning with man, after his beginning with God and dying from him. And so in relation to the present only, and without considering what man has been and what he is forgiven, we should regard any change by which he is qualified for a better part than naturally - as justification and preparation; or else in relation to the past, and with such consideration—as restoration and reparation. But that were supposing justification to be of the natural type before mentioned, and not merely official, as in an ordinary way. For ordinarily justification has only one view, and that an incidental; but in this case, an essential likewise. Justification in earthly courts is an acquittal on some previous convention, which may be as equitable as its authors were able

VOL. II.

D D

or willing to make it: and when a man is so justified, he will be never the nearer to justice in himself, nor in the eye of his proper Judge, however he may be in the eyes of others. But in the court of heaven justification is making just; and that both in mind and spirit-a downright transformation, or a renewal-looking farther back; as intimated by St. Paul in that excellent piece of advice to his scholars, “ Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind; that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God:” (Rom. xii. 2:) which, let me add, is naturally impossible.

Or else, if a justification with God was no more than a justification between man and man, it might be any thing rather than a renewal to some old pattern, or preparation either by a new one. For the word of man may rankle injustice, and make it more flagrant by an unjust sentence from the lips of those“ who call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness ;which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him.” (Isai. v. 20, 23.) But“ the words of the Lord are pure words : even as the silver, which from the earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire.” (Ps. xii. 7.) So we may see whom he tries and acquits by their purification or subsequent uprightness and fearless innocence. His acquittal and justification of any one is equivalent with redemption and deliverance, especially from the fear and dominion of two or three grievous oppressors: enabling men to look death in the face, and to defy “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;" (Heb. ii. 14;) to rid themselves of the incumbrances he had heaped upon them; to discharge their craft and falsehood; to scorn dissimulation, being as fearless as infants, and from the same cause, a clear conscience. For “ the wicked flee when no man pursueth ; but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Prov. xxviii. 1.) The part of God the Saviour, with our concurrence, in justification is virtually the same as a continual preparation : whereby those whom he calls, chooses, and decrees for salvation are made just and prepared for its enjoyment, as in a human court men might be made legally but not morally free, and put, as far as may be, in a way to enjoy such freedom. For God therefore to justify a man without making him just, but still leaving him the same wicked sort of thing that he found him, to go if he could, and enjoy the pleasures of heaven without one heavenly ingredient,-- were a mockery; were about the same thing as for a human judge to acquit his prisoner, and bid him go, dance for joy, leaving the captive wretch to linger at the same time in galling fetters.

Equally absurd were it also, for men to suppose that they have no share in their own justification, or their preparation for the blessed state just mentioned; notwithstanding it be said, He“justifieth the ungodly,” (Rom. iv. 5,) that is, maketh them just, without any reference to them farther than may be conceived in the effect of belief. And they cannot have rightly considered what an effect only believing in God's word would have toward the keeping of his commandments. Why, it may as well be supposed that men have no share in their present success any how, because it mainly and originally depends on the Great Ruler of events; or that they have no share in THE ENJOYMENT of any success, because it is God that “giveth to all life and breath and all things.” (Acts xvii. 25.) Besides; we also read of men's turning-actually turning, their own selves to the Lord, as for example, "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord :" (Lam. iii. 40:) also of “purifying themselves as he is pure.” (John I. iii. 3.) Nay; we even read of men's renewing themselves; as, “ They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength :” (Isai. xl. 31 :) which is not like doing nothing. It may therefore be allowable to assume all these forementioned human parts for salvation to be in conjunction, keeping, or continuance with the divine; whether the present stage be considered as a state of preparation or of reparation with the supplemental or subordinate part of probation.

I know, that from different passages of the Old and New Testament it would rather appear, as if PROBATION was a principal, instead of a subordinate means of salvation in the hands of Almighty Providence. So Moses seemingly taught the Israelites by his comment on several occasions; as for example, that concerning the waters of Marah and Meribah, (Exod. xv. 23, &c.; Num. xx. 13, &c.,) concerning bread in the wilderness, (Exod. xvi. 4, &c.,) concerning the divine Presence on Mount Sinai, (Ib. xx. 20,) concerning the idolaters in Canaan, (Judg. ii. 22, &c.,) concerning their own dreams of false prophets : (Deut. xiii. 1, &c.:) all which had been ordained, as he tells them, by the Lord, thy God,“ to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no,---who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not; that he might bumble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end.” (Ib. vi. 2, 16.) But Moses, or any other prophet, could only mean, that such probation was ordained by God as a test of the sufficiency of their preparation for the said latter end, in the same way as arms and various instruments for human purposes are tested, to prove how far they may be perfect and adequate to such purposes. So David assayed to go in Saul's armour against the champion of the Philistines; but stopped short and put it off, (as God will some of us,) because the royal equipment was too worldly perhaps for so spiritual a champion as David at that time, (Sam. I. xvii. 39.) And it may be worth trying also, whether in some cases a less worldly provision than we are apt to make might not be as well for ourselves. As well, however, might this present state be thought a state of punishment, because in it we are formed and reclaimed by blows like armour, -as it might be thought a state of

« PreviousContinue »