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knowledge at the time. You were influenced solely by your own incestuous lust, and the crafty advice of that hypocrite Ahitophel, who thought by this means to make the breach between you and your father irreparable.
Absalom. But who was I, that I could withstand God; who, by your own statement, had decreed that it should be
Nathan. Oh! unhappy and perverse young man! Dare you thus to throw the blame of your misconduct on God? Surely, you acted as freely and wilfully, as wickedly and inexcusably, as if God had known nothing of the matter, either beforehand or even at the time, You had often read and heard his commandment,"
“ Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor any thing which is thy neighbours ;” and yet you dared to covet your father's wives, and your father's kingdom ; and sought to take away his life. You had heard that Moses said, " Secret things belong to the Lord our God, and those things that are revealed belong to us, and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Now, therefore, you are worthy, not only of temporal death, but of that awful denunciation pronounced, in the days of Joshua, upon Mount Ebal, to which all Israel were required to say Amen : “ Cursed is he that continueth not in all the words of this law to do them.”
Absalom. If it excites enmity to my father, to expect that he will subject me to the sentence of death, how much more must I hate your God, who commanded all Israel to say Amen, to this sweeping sentence! What an unreasonable injunction was this, which obliged them to assent to the justice of their own condemnation ; for, according to this denunciation, who can be saved ?
Nathan. Is God unrighteous, who taketh vengeance? God forbid : for how then shall God judge the world ?
Absalom. So then, you would insist upon my allowing, not only that my father may justly condemn me to be stoned to death for my rebellion ; but also that God might justly execute upon me the curse of his law for ever!
Nathan. Certainly I do. And even if there were no known way of escape, I should yet exhort you as Joshua did Achan, ,
though he held out to him no hope of pardon : “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to Jehovah the God of Israel, and make confession unto him.” Your father, though he sinned grievously in the matter of Uriah, is yet a sincere penitent, and a true servant of God; and he has been a good father to you: he has only, as I remarked before, been too indulgent. But when he permitted you to return from Gerar, and afterwards allowed you, on Joab's intercession, to come to court, you requited his kindness most basely, and insidiously alienated the minds of his subjects, by treachery and falsehood. You have since taken up arms against him, and should you now reap the fruit of your own doings, he and his throne will be guiltless, and your blood will be on your own head. And certainly, your obligations to Jehovah, which you have denied and violated, are unspeakably superior to your obligations to your father; and your transgression of his good and holy law must be utterly inexcusable. His commands are all just, his prohibitions are just, and his threatenings are just also ; and this you ought to acknowledge, whether the sentence of his law be executed upon you or not.
Absalom. If my father should condemn me, I shall probably not feel my sufferings for half an hour; but if God shall condemn me, you have intimated that I shall suffer for ever. How then can I do otherwise than hate an avenging God?
Nathan. If you had any sense of the excellence and glory of the Most High God, you would undoubtedly justify him, and condemn yourself, though you might lawfully implore
Absalom. What room can I, or my father, or yourself have, to hope for mercy, from a God of such awful justice ; when the last curse, pronounced upon Mount Ebal, must certainly condemn all mankind?
Nathan. All mankind really deserve condemnation, and they all ought to own the justice of the sentence : all are bound to confess, that if Jehovah should mark their iniquities, they could not possibly stand before him in judgment.
Absalom. But how can I, or any one else, love a God who acts with such severity? It is still more impossible, than it is for me to love my father, if he will not pardon me.
Nathan. Would you have complained of your father, if he had put Amnon to death ? and have you not deserved death as well as he? Do you think hardly of God for his destroying Pharaoh and his host ? and can you justly complain of his punishing the ingratitude and rebellion of Israel ?
Absalom. But this curse involves in condemnation every one who continues not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them. Why then did God give a law to our fathers, by which no flesh living can be justified ?
Nathan. They and all mankind were originally under an obligation to love, serve, and glorify their Creator, from which the fall could not release them. But the law was promulgated at Sinai, that they might learn the great evil of sin, and see their need of his pardoning mercy.
Absalom. But what room does this awful denunciation leave for the exercise of mercy ?
Nathan. In the Second book of Moses, we are assured, that Jehovah said unto Moses, “I will make all my goodness to pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of Jehovah before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” And we read soon afterwards, that “ Jehovah descended in a cloud, and stood there with Moses, and proclaimed the name of Jehovah : and Jehovah passed before him, and proclaimed, 'Jehovah, Jehovah God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin,” &c.
Absalom. But how can this be consistent with the truth of the threatening ? or how can it be reconciled to that strict justice, which you profess to ascribe to the Most High?
Nathan. Thus much is manifest, that if God pardons any whom he might most justly have condemned, it must be altogether of his free favor; it must be entirely optional with him, to forgive those who have truly deserved punishment. The right of forgiveness is vested in the great Governor of the universe alone; as in earthly governments none but the chief magistrate can pardon an offender. But if a king should
use this right too frequently, the law would lose its authority, and sink into contempt. As the empire of Jehovah extends through the universe, and his law is absolutely perfect, very great difficulty attends the enquiry respecting the pardon of offences committed against him. How forgiveness can be effectėd consistently with the divine honor, and the support of God's authority, does not yet fully appear. But Infinite Wisdom will, there is no doubt, take care of this point. Jehovah has given us, however, some intimation of his gracious design. There is one who was mentioned, in the very day that man fell, under the name of the seed of the woman, whose heel should be bruised by the serpent, but who should crush the serpent's head. This is the same person who was promised to our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to. whom God declared, “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Jacob also prophesied of him, on his death-bed, under the name of Shiloh, and intimated that he should descend from Judah ; and lately, God has revealed to your father that he shall spring from his line. David has also recorded several predictions concerning this blessed Messiah, who will do that really and effectually, by the sacrifice of himself, · which can only be done figuratively and typically, by all the sacrifices of the law. The constant repetition of these sacrifices shows their inefficacy : for if they could purge the conscience from all guilt, then would they cease to be offered. This priest, whom your father describes, as being after the order of Melchizedek, and not after the order of Aaron, will make atonement even for those great offences, for which no legal sacrifices are appointed, but to which the sentence of death is annexed by the law. The method of salvation is now but imperfectly understood; but when the Messiah shall appear, the way of reconciliation shall be more fully manifested. I know that
I know that your father builds all his hope of pardon and acceptance with God on this ground; and though I have been kept from such open sins as David fell into a few years ago, yet I have no hope of salvation but on the same footing; that is, all my hope is founded on undeserved mercy, and on the promised Messiah.
Absalom. Then why did you not begin with stating these encouraging discoveries, instead of terrifying me first with the awful curses pronounced on Mount Ebal ?
Nathan. Because I thought it necessary that you should first see your danger, and thus be excited to flee to the Messiah, like the manslayer to the city of refuge. You must be convinced that the justice of God would appear in your condemnation, before you can ascribe your salvation to undeserved and sovereign mercy.
As a man who is not aware that he is infected with any disease, will not be much concerned to apply to a physician; so a sinner will not highly value a Saviour, till he sees sin to be an evil and bitter thing.
Oh! I wish you would read over that Psalm, which your penitent father composed, just after 1 had been sent to reprove him for his heinous offence; and use the same earnest supplications: then it is possible, even though your life should be considered as forfeited to your country, that yet you may find mercy in the eyes of the Lord, and escape his wrath and curse, which are due to your manifold sins. Yea, if you are brought to true repentance, and faith in the promised Messiah, your soul shall certainly be saved, and you shall inherit eternal life.
QUERIES RESPECTING SIN. AND DUTY, ANTECEDENT
TO THE CONSIDERATION OF THE GOSPEL.
Could men have sinned, if Christ had never come into the world ?
Wherein would their sin have chiefly consisted ?
Would God have been lovely, though he had dealt with sinners according to law ?
Would it then have been a sin, not to love God, even if he had never sent his Son to die for sinners ?
If not, what would have been chargeable on men as sin ?