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happens, the goodness of its constituents: it is this goodness that constitutes the natural integrity of the kingdom, which therefore could not originally be partitioned, nor spoiled of a single constituent without damage or even destruction to the whole. And if life itself be naturally good, a point that seems to have been settled by instinct, or universal consent, immortality must naturally be better ; but if at present certain conditions are necessary, to make even life tolerable, how much more for the weight of eternity!
Immortality, therefore, though naturally essential, may be conditionally characteristic, i. e., a good characteristic with a good subject, and a good immortality with immortal goodness. Or if the character of a subject could be changed from evil to good, immortality might become, by means of such change, a good, a blessed, characteristic in many a subject to whom it had otherwise proved a very abyss of woe. But can a subject be changed and continue the same? If it can, there may be found in immortality what there cannot simply in life, and we may hail it as a good characteristic. There is then no doubt, that the character of any subject may be changed, its essence continuing; or as one should say, without any impeachment of essentials,—and the character of every minute ingredient, i. e. of every simple constituent, separately too, as well as the character of the whole subject together, by the operation of a foreign principle. Such is the blessed efficacy of that one principle : whereby one might safely propose“ to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality-eternal life” (Rom. ii. 7), and life worth their having too, a decidedly good characteristic; being “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. vi. 11).
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN CHRIST.
GOOD SUBJECTIVE CHARACTERISTICS.
I, Of Incidentals.2, Of Constituents.
“ The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” - GEN. ii. 9.
HAVING considered the essentials, whether incidental or constituent, of the Kingdom of God incarnate, by the table presented to us in our own constitution and circumstances, we are now to consider likewise, in the second place, its colouring and characteristics. Which Characteristics, although they would seem to bear the same relation to the essential subject, as a shadow to its substance, are not mere shadows however, but matters of as high concern as the subjects themselves to which they relate; those which meet in any subject forming together, or in the aggregate, its whole character, and being as necessary a part of the same as its essential constituents, with the advantage also of being more intelligible. For the real essence of every subject is, like its origin, unknown in some measure, not being fully developed by its consequences; but of One, and He the Author of all more especially. UNKNOWN (according to the heathen mythology, Night; and according to the Christian, DARKNESS) is the source of all things. And all things must have a character, even where there is no notion of the same; as with respect to things that were never seen nor heard of.
If we were to consider notions as shadows, and characteristics as substances in relation to them, we should be nearer the truth, than by considering characteristics only as the shadows of substances; the shadow of any thing being a mere accident, the characteristic as indispensable as its outside, and its outside as substantial as the inside. We should be very attentive to the distinguishing between notion and character; because the former is apt to vary with views and circumstances; but the latter only with facts and realities, and not according to any one's thinking, nor saying either. Good, e. g. will be good, and evil will be evil, notwithstanding the perverseness of those “who call evil good, and good evil” (Isai. v. 20). The notion is a midway signal between character and description: it belongs by right both to that of which, and to that by which it is conceived; to the object of conception as well as to the subject or concipient, though its native place is with the latter. And considering the weakness and fallibility of human conceptions, it may be said of subjects generally, if not universally, that our notion is one thing, their character another. Thus, to deduce an example from the highest point, the highest subject that can be quoted, from the Author both of the character and essence of every subject as aforesaid; we know that "the Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Ps. cxlv. 17), though some have very unrighteous and very unhallowed notions both of Him and his ways and works. Which seems natural enough however: because our notions are constituent parts of our own intellect, and must therefore agree with its other constituents; while the characteristics of the Godhead belong only to God, being his own notion of himself. The former are human; the latter, divine; and no two subjects can be more dissimilar than the Divine Being, and the notion which many men have, por more unequal than his own notion, and that which any man can have, in this life at least, of that Glorious Object.
If it seemed worth while therefore, a plain distinction might be founded on this principle, of incidental and constituent characteristics answering to incidental and constituent essentials; our notion of a subject being considered as an incidental characteristic; its genuine character, (God's notion of the same) as constituent. But the genuine character of a subjeet being inaccessible to every understanding besides that by which it was formed, and men being consequently obliged to substitute notions for characters, the observance of such a distinction would be both difficult and superfluous, at the same time that the notion or foresaid substitute may answer every purpose : for, as every subject has its character, so every KNOWN subject must have one notion appertaining to it at least, if that should be the greatest secret upon earth.
Indeed every subject, while it can have but one character, is susceptible of two notions relating thereto; both of which may be proved correct on different criterions, as we find by considering them in their principles : yet these two notions form only one together; which is the notion of the subject relating to either criterion : e. g., The principles of every characteristic constituent are two, v. g. good and evil, having different relations, as the same subject may be either good in itself and bad in other respects, or bad in itself and good in other respects: and the general notion of every thing will be also thus compounded; as we find to be the case with regard to the Best and worst of beings. For first, God in himself is all goodness; but they who do what they can to make him their enemy will not find Him good; and next, while the devil, on the contrary, is all wickedness in himself; still, as the work of God, he will be good for some purposes notwithstanding, like God's other works. And the same comparison may be extended to all the adherents of the wicked spirit, to
the whole mass of the wicked. For however loathsome and abominable they may be in themselves, they must still be good for something, or they would not be here : just as a dunghill must be good for something, or it would not be tolerated in the vicinity of our darling habitations.
And so it is presumable, that the distinction may now be sufficiently indicated between, not only the notion and character of a subject, but also between its essential and characteristie constituents, however inseparable these may be in their own nature or natural position. And inseparable indeed they also are generally, though not specifically ; every essential constituent of the Kingdom having its characteristics always, if not always the same. For characteristics: being acquirable, of course cannot be invariable like essentials, which are not acquirable; as brilliance, e.g., among material properties, which may be acquired by the essential properties of gold, and quickness by those; of the apprehension ; while the essential properties of gold and apprehension are themselves perfectly unacquirable, and cannot be ever transfused or transmuted into any subject in which they do not naturally exist. So evil was acquired once in the moral department especially, and good may be acquired by the mediation of Christ; , but not the essential properties, whether spiritual or intellectual, that are susceptible of this characteristic, without a miracle.
But there seem to be two opposite notions among the teachers and preachers of the doctrine of the Kingdom respecting the balance of its constituent characteristics : some maintaining, that in all its subject or composition there is not a good one; others, on the contrary, that there are more good than bad. In the meantime, among the first mentioned class some will even go so far as to propose themselves for examples on their own doctrine; as St. Paul for one, where he tells the Philippians, as he had also told the Corinthians before (Cor. I. iv. 16), “ Brethren,