« PreviousContinue »
is not, therefore, merely a permitted or allowed thing, to trust in the blood of Christ for pardon and acceptance: it is also a commanded duty, and the only way of glorifying God, as He wishes to be glorified. Accordingly, when He comes to judge the world, it is not in the punishment of the impenitent, He expects or will seek His glory : He will come "to be glorified in His saints," and admired in them that love Him; and they all began to glorify God, by believing in Christ for salvation. If you still have some doubt as to the universal truth of the fact, that goodness is the glory of God, you can hardly be unwilling now to go farther into the subject: for, if it be true that God both can and will reckon himself more glorified in your salvation than in your condemnation, the hopefulness of your case is beyond all doubt. Well, He is intent on glorifying himself. His own glory is the grand end of all that He does. Now, where has God said or insinuated that He wishes to glorify Himself, by your condemnation or mine? Nowhere! The only instances in which He represents signal acts of judgments as glorious to Him, are those which pave the way for more signal acts of mercy. Except when mercy is to "rejoice over judgment," God never calls judgment His glory. This fact is equally amazing and pleasing. It is, however, as rational as it is true. For, even an earthly king does not sign death-warrants to promote his glory. He does sign them, and requires their execution: but, unless he be a tyrant, he takes no pleasure in doing so. In fact, he only does so, in order to maintain the real glory of his character and laws; both of which are glorified, just in proportion as punishment is unnecessary. And if a good king would reckon it his chief glory to have no death-warrants to sign, well may we believe that the God of Love does not seek his glory from "second-death" warrants.
It is, I am aware, somewhat hazardous to run parallels between human and divine government, or to argue from regal glory to the divine glory. The chief hazard is not, however, on that side, where it seems to be at first sight.
The real danger is, not of being carried too far by the analogy, but of not being carried far enough. An earthly king cannot always pardon, with perfect safety to his honour and authority. Nay, he can never be absolutely certain, that mercy to a criminal will improve the criminal himself, or be justice to the state: whereas, God can pardon to any extent whatever, without any risk whatever. He can even "be just," in justifying the most ungodly, and certain that the act of grace will make them godly. The blood of Christ can cleanse from all sin; and therefore God, without any compromise of his character or authority, and without any violation of law or justice, can pardon all sin. Thus He can be just as well as generous; because the atonement legitimates the exercise of mercy, and secures the moral influence of grace. It is, therefore, defect, not excess, that we have to be afraid of, when we reason from regal to divine glory. The argument, instead of going too far, does not go far enough, when the mediatorial government of God is the subject.
Is it then our wish to glorify God? If it be, we ought to hope, we must hope, for salvation. The lost never will nor can glorify Him. For, what is it to glorify God? Now, to say the least, it is to adore and admire God: and that the lost never will do, whilst immortality endures. They will never think highly, nor speak honourably of God; but harden as they suffer, and blaspheme whilst they burn. They will never be able to think, perhaps not even to call, God unjust but neither will they ever approve of His justice. Saints "glorify God in the fires" of affliction, because they know that these fires will be eventually quenched and because they feel that, even now, the fiery trial is taking away the love and power of sin. Thus they can both submit meekly and approve cordially: but, amidst the unquenchable fire, there will be none of this meek and quiet spirit, and, therefore, no glory rendered to God.
But let us come more closely to the point on this subject. All that God has done for the salvation of sinners is un
equivocal proof that He thinks it no glory unto himself, to punish the impenitent. He reckons it, indeed, no disgrace to do so. He will neither be ashamed of it, nor shrink from it. Why should He? All the lost will be as unfit for heaven, as they are unworthy of it: and as their neglect and guilt were their own voluntary acts, it will be perfectly and infinitely "a righteous thing" to inflict judgment. Not to do so, would be injustice to the universe. Still, it will be any thing but gratifying to God to do so. He will not triumph in the opportunity or in the act of vengeance. He never sought for either; and, therefore, neither will give Him any personal pleasure. His wish was, to be the Father of a holy and happy universe. In that God sought his glory. And so intently was his heart set upon this that even when our world came "short of His glory," He so loved it as to provide a Saviour, by whom it might be brought up to be again His glory and delight. Thus, so far is God from reckoning it a glory or a pleasure to Him to punish, that, rather than punish man, He spared not His own Son, but gave Him up to be a curse for us. O, how how can any one suspect "this God," of a wish or an intention to glorify himself, by judgment? Had that been His glory or His wish, He would never have made the soul of Christ an offering for sin.
This, this will be the silencing truth on the day of judgment. God will make it felt throughout all the general assembly of the lost, that their doom is no pleasure to Him. He will demonstrate to all the universe, that nothing was further or more foreign from His nature and will, than any wish to take vengeance. He will implant in every spirit, an imperishable conviction that He was forced to punish. Yes! some may now suspect God of seeking occasions for anger, and of preferring judgment to mercy; and thus try to persuade themselves that they will not be altogether to blame, if they should perish: but this, of all fallacies and flatteries, will be found, at last, to be the greatest and
If these general views of the divine character and government, throw any light upon the real glory of God, more minute views will increase that light. Now it is the fact, that only in the exercise of goodness is there room for the full exercise or manifestation of all the divine perfections. For although none of them are violated or tarnished, in the least, by judgment, still they cannot all be displayed by judgment. Justice, holiness, and wisdom are the only moral attributes of God which can enter into final acts of punishment: whereas, into acts of pardon, exercised as they are on the grounds of the atonement, all the perfections of God enter in full harmony and equal glory. But this will be best illustrated by the fact, that the Saviour is "the brightness of his glory."
JESUS, THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE FATHER'S
It is worthy of our special and grateful notice, that since our attention has been absorbed by the great and solemn question of our personal salvation, the great mysteries of religion present to us no "stumbling-block," nor "rock of offence." Not, of course, that we understand either the Trinity or the Incarnation better-they are as much mysteries to us as ever; but we are not so much inclined or tempted to indulge a speculative spirit, as formerly. We feel ourselves to be in another spirit or position towards these " "deep things of God." We are not even tempted to find fault with their unfathomable depth. Satan does, indeed, at times entangle our thoughts with momentary questionings of the whole scheme of revelation; but, now that he has succeeded in concentrating our doubts upon the one point of our own escape, he does not ply our plague so
much with skeptical doubts. We do not, however, owe this exemption to his forbearance. No, indeed! It is God who thus stays Satan's north wind in the day of his east wind." This is a mercy. For were our minds as much torn by doctrinal, as by personal doubts, or as much distracted by mysteries as by fears, we should sink entirely.
It deserves our notice also, that this freedom from doubt and dislike of the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement, does not arise from any indifference to these cardinal truths of the Gospel. Our chief attention is absorbed by our personal case as sinners; but it is not alienated from these doctrines. We have not forgotten them, because we are no longer staggered or startled by them. We do not care little about them, now that we care so much about ourselves.
This is not an accident, nor altogether a matter of course. We are thus kept clear of disbelieving truths, of firstrate and essential importance. We are thus cured of the impertinence of playing off the mysteries of the Divine essence, as excuses for neglecting the Divine authority. Nor is this all God has thus created a favourable opportunity for us to look under the surface of those texts which, hitherto, we have read and heard only as proofs of the divinity of the Saviour. Many of them in proving that, prove much more: and present as much of the paternal character of God, as of the personal glory of the Lamb. Yea, they are as much intended to prove, that all the fulness of the Son's good will is in the heart of the Father, as that all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in the Son bodily. For the Saviour is as much "the express image" of the Father's character, as of the Father's person.
Did we know this grand scriptural truth well, we could not indulge nor invent those suspicions and jealousies of the heart or the hand of God, which we are so prone to give way to. And until we understand this grand truth, they cannot be effectually cured, nor completely removed It is, therefore, of immediate and immense importance, now