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sand angels left their thrones to proclaim it from pole to pole, every Sabbath. For, could God lie, that might only be a more splendid delusion. Some speak as if they would be satisfied and delighted with seeing the Lamb's Book of Life: and I do not pretend to be without curiosity: but, if His Book of Promise contain deceptions, that Book of Life may be equally fallacious. Some, again, would lay great stress on, yea, place entire confidence in, such a sensible work of the Holy Spirit upon them, as . would
prove that they were “born again.” But if the word of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures (and they are all His word) cannot be relied on, I do not see how his work would be any sure ground or guide of hope.
THE CHIEF CAUSE OF DOUBTING.
Next to the fool, who saith in his heart,
6 there is no God," we rank the wicked to whom God saith,
66 Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself." And if the utter denial of a God be the height of folly, it must be the height of wickedness to deem God to be like the wicked in any thing, or in any sense. And yet, such is the effrontery or the infatuation of some men, that they do not hesitate to think and speak of God, as being like themselves in some things. They never, indeed, imagine that He is mortal, or weak, or ignorant, or unhappy: but they do imagine, and fondly too, that God thinks as lightly of sin as they do: and that He will treat sin as leniently as they do. If they admit that He notices sin at all, it is one ly such a notice as smiles at sin as an error, or excuses it as a misfortune. Ordinary sins they regard as quite beneath his notice; and even in the case of gross sins, they take for granted that God will make great allowances for human frailty, and greater still for the force of circumstances and temptation. Thus they settle the matter. They view sin in this light; and, therefore, they conclude that, of course, God views it much in the same light. The idea that He will punish it with everlasting destruction, or treat it with severity, they scorn as illiberal, if not fanatical.
With all this, neither our judgment nor our conscience has any allowed sympathy. This lowering of the Divine nature to the level of human nature, shocks us. We wonder and weep at the infatuation of men who can thus, in the face of a world groaning under the curse, and in the face of a cross where Emmanuel groaned and died, think lightly of sin, or dream that God thinks lightly of it. This transferring of human opinions and human feelings to the Eternal Mind, in spite of all warning, and in defiance of all conscience, seems to us even worse than Atheism. At least, we feel that the denial of God can hardly be worse than this attempt to degrade him.
Is it, however, the wicked alone, who judge of God by themselves? They alone ascribe to him slight views, and slumbering feelings of the evil of sin: we never imagine that God does not hate, or is not angry with it. But do we ascribe nothing to God but what is godlike? Do we transfer none of the prejudices or partialities of our own minds, to the Eternal Mind? We may not intend to do so, nor be conscious of doing so; and yet there may be something of the process of assimilating God to man, going on in our habits of thinking and judging about His character and disposition.
In this startling form and connexion, these questions may seem, at first, impertinent and unnecessary. They are, however, neither. For, do we never confess nor deplore that we have occasionally some low views of God some harsh or gloomy views of His character-some suspicions of His good will, and even his equity? Do we never make out a character for God, that is not " altogether lovely ?" Ah! we have much to charge ourselves with, on the score both of limiting and lowering the Holy One of Israel. We are ashamed and shocked at certain thoughts and suspicions which have passed through our minds, at times. Now, whence came they? Where did we gather them from? We actually ascribe some of the worst of these blasphemous thoughts of God, to the suggestions of Satan. And we are right in doing so. They are too unwelcome and loathsome to us, to be wholly our own fault. We are too glad to get rid of them, to be intentionally guilty of them. But, do you not see that—if we are in danger of ascribing to God passions or designs which Satan suggests—there must be some danger of ascribing to God some of our own imperfections. For, if we can, occasionally, so far forget ourselves, and our bibles too, as to admit an image of God into our minds, from the hand of the chief
of God and man, it is but too likely that we, ourselves, may stamp something of our own image upon some part of the Divine character; and thus come to think that God is not altogether unlike us in some things. And, what else are our suspicions of His heart—of His hand-of His purposes, but reflections of our own image, falling on His revealed image, and disfiguring its glory by their own ominous glare? Where, also, but from our own changeableness and caprice, could we get those jealousies of His love and faithfulness which we are so prone to indulge? Oh! it is not the wicked alone who are chargeable with charging God foolishly. They alone have the hardihood to think him unholy : but they are not the only class who judge of His heart by their own hearts, in some things.
It is, however, worthy of deep and daily remembrance that, in general, those who are never afraid of God, venture to take far greater liberties with His authority, than they take, who occasionally give way to distressing suspicions of His good will.-Minds which never betray nor admit any fears, seldom manifest any love or allegiance to God. They keep clear, indeed, of all harsh and dark views of the Divine character ; but they keep equally clear of all transporting and transforming views of it. They are strangers to doubts; but they are also estranged from awe, and from all deep sense of practical obligation. It would, therefore, be a bad exchange to have our hearts divested of all fear, at the expense of having our consciences stript of all tenderness.—Better suffer occasionally from a dark suspicion or foreboding, than settle down in that smiling apathy which has no fear of displeasing God, nor any desire to please Him. We may often be both weak and wrong in giving way to some of our alarms; but the worst of them cannot be so criminal, as lethargy of heart or conscience.—God can sympathize with mistakes and infirmities; but he denounces all who are "at case in Zion."
We ought not, however, to be prevented, even by this solemn fact, from ridding ourselves, thoroughly, of all harsh and gloomy ideas of the character and will of God. There is no occasion for sheltering or admitting one of them, if we have no design of making a bad use of sweet and soothing views of God. For, why should we distress or discourage ourselves by suspicions, if we are willing and desirous to make a good use of hope and encouragement ? Let us, by all means, take care to avoid the fatal extreme of taking up with such Aimsy notions of God, as they indulge, who think Him too good to be displeased with them: but, on the other hand, let us take equal care not to suspect Him of being at all indifferent, or distant, or changeable, towards those who sincerely wish to please Him by faith and practice. We must, indeed, judge of God, in some measure, from ourselves; because it is only through the medium of human excellence, that we can judge at all of Divine perfections : but, as we shrink with horror from attributing any of our own passions or errors to the Eternal Mind, let us also be afraid of ascribing to that mind, any of our own weakness or caprice.
This is done, when we judge of the Sovereignty of the Divine will and purposes, by the arbitrary selections and de
cisions of the human will. God, indeed, says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy;" but the explanation of this solemn oracle and setiled maxim, is not to be found, and should not be sought for, in the modes of our will or mercy, nor in the self-will of any creature. love and hate, choose and refuse, with a great deal of sovereignty indeed : for we should often be unable to assign any reason to ourselves or others, for some of our likes and dislikes. They were just our humour at the moment; and even in the case of likes and dislikes, which we thought we had good reasons for at the moment, we have changed our mind afterward, and even repented of our rashness.
This is the sovereignty of the human will, in the exercise of its love and hatred. But there can be no such caprice or vacillation in the Sovereignty of God. Its image is neither in the ill will of a stern man, nor in the good will of a weak man. Heartless men are utterly unlike the Love of God; and men with nothing but hearts, equally unlike the wisdom of God. We ought, therefore, to take equal care not to judge of the divine will from our own temperament, nor from the spirit of rival systems. God is not at all “such a one as the gloomy depict; nor “altogether such a one" as the lively imagine.
“How then," it will be asked, “ should we judge of His sovereignty? His own will is His only law in showing mercy: the point is, therefore, too solemn to be overlooked or hushed up in silence." True, and there is no necessity for hiding or hushing on the subject. We have only to judge of God's will, as we do of every man's will; that it will be like Himself. Every man wills according to his general character, or according to his prevailing disposition; and according to that, we judge of His will. Now what is the general character of the God with whom we have to do? It is that He is love, that He delights in mercy, that He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, that He hates putting away, that He is unwilling that any should perish. Well, His will is like all this. Could we, then,