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highest, for that pacific spirit and good will which he was then so won. derfully manifesting toward the children of men. This good will of God toward the race of Adam, did not contemplate them as worthy and ami. able ; but, on the contrary, as ill-deserving and hateful. The most direct contrast of disinterested benevolence is selfishness. Though the Lord hath made all things for himself, he is at an infinite remove from being actuated by that contracted principle which we denominate selfishness. His regard to himself, does not exceed his worthiness to be regarded by all other intelligent beings, to whom he is made known.* His be. nevolent regard to his creatures, the subjects of his moral dominion, is not counteracted, nor diminished by the least degree of malice, or pride, or unconcern for their happiness; as appears by such declarations as these : “ As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” “ Though the Lord be high, yet hath he res. pect unto the lowly." “ The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Ezek. xxxiii. 11. Ps. cxxxviii. 6; cxlv. 9.
The other branch of holy love is distinguished from good will or benevolence, by being called delight or complacence; and this requires goodness of character to constitute an object worthy of its regard. God's love of complacency is limited to those who possess a holy character; to all such, in whatever world they are found, it extends, and in exact proportion to their degree of holiness. In this sense of the word love, “ the righteous Lord loveth righteousness," and that alone; and “his countenance doth behold the upright,” while “the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.' Daniel was not only beloved of his God, but greatly beloved. Why was he greatly beloved ? Not because he was clothed in scarlet and had a chain of gold about his neck; not because he was the first minister of state; but because an uncommon degree of piety and integrity adorned his character. Ps. xi. 5, 7. Dan. ix. 23.
Love is as comprehensive an attribute as holiness, and yet more descriptive. It is as comprehensive, since there is no moral excellence, of which we can form a conception, that is not some one of its modifications : it is more descriptive, since it is an affection of heart of which we can form a more definite idea than of holiness, Christ taught us that all the law and the prophets were comprised in two brief commands, the one enjoining love to God, and the other love to men ; and Paul represented all the law to be fulfilled in one word, and that one word was love. Such representations assume the ground, that any being, whether Creator or creature, who is possessed of a loving or benevolent spirit, in distinction from malice, selfishness, or indifference, has in his heart the whole of that good treasure, from which every thing spiritually rich and excellent can be drawn forth, as occasion shall call for it. Such benevolence characterizes all the inhabitants of heaven ; but the God of heaven possesses infinitely more of it than all the rest. His benevolence has originated theirs, and continually supports it. It is the benevolence of God which renders heaven a world of glory; and every thing of the same nature on the earth, is to
* See more on this subject under the next Article.
be traced up to the same inexhaustible source. I proceed to the consideration of the next moral perfection.
Thirdly. Justice belongs to this class. This is that modification of benevolence which prevents our wronging others, and prompts us to give to all that which is equal and right. It is applicable to our commercial dealings, as appears by that statute which we find in the law of Moses : “ Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin shall ye have.” Levit. xix. 36. It is still more applicable to governmental concerns. Wisdom, in commending herself, says, " By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.” It is in connection with the account of David's reign over all Israel, that we are told he executed judgment and justice to all his people; that is, in the administration of the government entrusted to his hands, he treated his subjects according to their respective characters; he neither condemned the innocent, nor cleared the guilty. And it is in view of the moral government, which God exercises over his accountable creatures, that justice is attributed to him. As a God of holiness, he necessarily possesses entirely different feelings towards holy and unholy creatures. If therefore he has any government at all, it must be of a character to accord with such feelings, and must serve to manifest them. It must require holiness and forbid sin, require benevolent feelings and actions, and forbid those of a contrary nature. In correspondence with such enactments his government must be administered, in order to entitle him to the character of a just Ruler. And has not this been the spirit of his government and of its administration? It has been such as fully to entitle him to be called “the just Lord,” and “ him that is most just.” He accepteth the persons of none, no not of princes; nor regardeth the rich more than the poor; but always has both his feelings and decisions in exact accordance with the character of his subjects. He never condemns the righteous, nor does he ever clear the guilty. Far be it from him, who is the Judge of all the earth, so to administer his government, that the righteous should be as the wicked. Zeph. iii. 5. Job xxxiv. 17–19. Ex. xxxiv. 7. Gen. xviii. 25.
Fourthly. Mercy is one of the moral perfections of God. A disposition to pity and relieve the wretched, though their wretchedness may have been the fruit of their own folly, is an amiable trait of character wherever it is found. In Jehovah, the God of our salvation, it is found in the highest possible degree. This is proved by scripture declarations, and by facts which speak louder than declarations. The scriptures declare, and that with great frequency, that “God is merciful,” and “ of great mercy," " plenteous and manifold in his mercy; that he has a tender mercies," and " a multitude of tender mercies ; and that “his mercy is from everlasting, and endureth forever.” Nor do they merely declare that he has a merciful heart, and feelings of compassion, but refer us to facts which have developed these feelings, and proved their reality. They tell us not only that his heart is full of mercy, but also that the earth is full of it, that is, of its displays. How could the Most High have given greater proof of the mercifulness of his nature, than to have selected our guilty, wretched world, as a theatre for the display of it? Do you ask what mercy he has shown to our revolted world; I answer by asking, what could he have done
more? Creatures of our character live on mercy every moment. But passing by every common favor, let me entreat you to turn your eyes to the cross, and contemplate that expensive provision which he has made for our redemption from iniquity and ruin. Contemplate this as you ought, and you will ask for no additional proof that God is merciful.
Fifthly. Truth is a moral attribuie. An utter aversion to falsehood, and a disposition to represent things as they really are, accompanied with a strict punctuality in the fulfilment of engagements, form an essential characteristic of a good being; and this characteristic is denominated truth. Among those attributes, which constitute the moral perfection of Jehovah, truth holds a conspicuous place. He is not only called “ a God of truth,” but is said to be “ abundant in truth," and a “God that can not lie.” As he can not be deceived, so he can not practise deceit. His truth, when displayed in the fulfilment of his promises, is called faithfulness; and this is said to reach to the clouds, to be established in the very heavens, and to be that which he will never suffer to fail. Deut. xxxii. 4. Ex. xxxiv. 6. Tit. i. 2. Ps. xxxvi. 5; lxxxix. 2-33.
The attributes which I have now described are sufficient, when well understood, to make us acquainted with the holiness of God. Other shades of character might be exhibited, but it is unnecessary to mention further particulars.
Blessedness is not so properly one of God's attributes, as the happy result of them all. He is not only called “the blessed God," and “God blessed forever," but he is distinguished from all other beings in the universe by being called THE BLESSED. 1 Tim. i. 11. Rom. ix. 5. Mark xiv. 61. In respect to holy enjoyment, the Supreme Being differs as much from all his creatures, as he does in the greatness of his understanding and the goodness of his heart. Both in degree and duration his blessedness is unbounded. All the means of promoting it are in his own power, since he is a God in whom all fulness dwells. The infinite, eternal, and unchangeable felicity of the divine mind, is as pure as it is great ; and must therefore be regarded by every benevolent being as a good of immense value.
Let me now turn your attention to the harmony which this Article has exhibited as existing between the divine attributes. Among them all, no discord can be found. It is certain none can be found among those of the class termed natural attributes. These are faculties or capabilities, such as are necessary to render an intelligent being as great as possible ; they are therefore all of them described as unlimited. Infinity is applied to the place and duration of God's existence; also to his knowledge and power. He fills immensity, inhabits eternity, knows all things, and can do all things. Had he been represented as eternal, but not omnipresent; or as omniscient, but not omnipotent; there would have been an infinite disproportion in his attributes : but now they are completely harmonious. His ability to plan and to exe. cute are equally unlimited.
Between the moral attributes, the harmony is no less apparent, nor any less perfect. God is infinitely holy in his nature, and “ holy in all his works.” To him there belongs no unholy attribute nor unholy work. He has infinite love ; nor has he any attribute of a contrary nature. That love, which comprehends the whole of his moral perfection, is differently denominated, according to its particular displays. When exercised towards creatures susceptible of enjoyment, irrespectively of their character, it is called good will, a word of the same import with benevolence. When it is exercised towards good characters, as such, it is often distinguished by being termed delight, favor, and the light of his countenance ; each of which expressions is of the same import with complacency. Towards the character of selfish creatures, infinite benevolence must feel a total aversion; and this aversion is expressed by such words as hatred, displeasure, abhorrence, and the like.
In consistency with an abhorrence of their character, God desires their happiness, so far as it can be promoted, and yet not interfere with a greater good : and this desire for their happiness is called compassion, grace, mercy, &c.
Is there not a sweet harmony between these varied exhibitions of Jehovah's character ? Do we not intuitively discover a harmony between his extending his benevolent regard to all, and his restricting the love of delight to holy characters? If holiness is lovely, and sin hateful, a holy God must love the one, and hate the other. Never
a was a discord in music more apparent, than that which would be made in theology, by supposing that Grabiel and Satan, with characters so totally diverse, should both of them be objects of divine complacency.
Those attributes which, at a first glance, seem to possess discordant properties, are in the light of revealed truth seen to be harmonious. “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Ps. Ixxxv. 10. Vindictive justice, which calls for the destruction of transgressors, and mercy, which pleads for their forgiveness, make no discord. Punishing justice and pardoning mercy are not the same thing ; but they resemble those different tones in music which unite to make a concord of sound. Mercy acknowledges the claims of justice, and by means of an atonement she adds new lustre to that stern attribute, at the very time she displays her own milder glory.
As there is a very discoverable harmony between the attributes belonging to the same class, I think it is no less apparent between those which belong to the different classes. Hence it is, that there are cases where it is difficult to determine to which class we are to assign an attribute ; whether to consider it as belonging to the natural or moral class. The truth is, there is such an entire harmony between God's natural and moral perfections, that some of the attributes are of a mixed character, partly natural and partly moral. This appears to be the case with wisdom, immutability, and condescension.
Wisdom is a mixed attribute, having omniscience and perfect bene. volence for its component parts. It comprises knowledge to discover all the means necessary to accomplish the best end, and a heart bene. volent enough to choose and adopt those means. The divine understanding is never employed in wicked devices, though as a mere natural attribute it is capable of this; but is always employed in devising good, and the most eligible methods of accomplishing it. See Rom. xi. 33. 1 Cor. i. 21. Eph. i. 8, and iii. 10.
Immutability is a mixed attribute. Eternity, ubiquity, omniscience and omnipotence are necessarily incapable of augmentation or diminu. tion, and are therefore unchangeable. So far immutability is a natural attribute. But when God is spoken of as incapable of the least change in his holiness, goodness and truth, his immutability is represented to be a moral excellence. And this is the representation which is made in the following passages : “ For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” “ Eyery good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.' “ That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie,” &c. Mal. iii. 6. Jam. i. 17. Heb. vi. 18. Immutability, in the most absolute sense, belongs to no being in the universe besides the all-sufficient God. This may be considered as the crowning attri. bute, because its province is to give a perfect stability to all the rest.
Condescension is also a two-fold attribute, compounded of greatness and kindness. In Jehovah it is unsearchable greatness and majesty stooping infinitely low. Humility, since it implies a sense of depend. ence and of comparative insignificance, is not an attribute of God; but his unbounded condescension makes it evident, that he possesses nothing of that haughty spirit which is the opposite of humility. This attribute was celebrated by Elihu, when he said, “ Behold God is mighty, and despiseth not any;" and by David when he said, “ Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect_unto the lowly ;” and by God himself, in the following passage : “ For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. .” Job xxxvi. v. Ps. cxxxviii. 6. Isa. Ivii. 15. That a being so great and exalted, should hold such intimate communion with creatures so insignificant and unworthy, is very affecting. It throws around the throne of the Most High an ineffable glory. It is condescension without degradation.
No instance can be pointed out, where one divine attribute makes war upon another. Omnipotence, considered as a natural attribute, could do infinite mischief, could destroy all good; but it is always employed in doing good, in accomplishing that which wisdom decides is best to be done. It is therefore with propriety called a “glorious
While it terrifies the wicked, it excites the confidence of the holy part of the creation.
Those who have attended to the distinction which has been made between the two classes of divine attributes, must readily perceive that it is the moral attributes which give a lustre to the natural. The moral perfection of God is that which imparts beauty and glory to his un. searchable greatness. So he views the matter himself; for when Moses besought him to show him his glory, he returned him this answer, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee;" implying that his glory consisted in the goodness of his nature.
Could infinite natural attri. butes be divested of goodness, there would be nothing in them glorious. The God of Israel conceded, that if his people found iniquity in him, they would have had some justifiable reason for having gone far from