« السابقةمتابعة »
more complete acquaintance with every part of its contents: by which means our assurance of its divinity will increase continually, if we prosecute the study, in a teachable, humble, and obedient spirit. But it should also be remembered, that we are bound implicitly to believe “ the testimony of God, (which is sure " and giveth wisdom to the simple,”) in decided pre. ference to our own preconceived opinions and reason. ings, and to the decisions of the most renowned and admired philosophers. The Lord has a right to de. mand such unreserved credit from all his rational crea. tures, whenever he speaks to them: nor does the mysteriousness of his instruction form any ground of exception; for they who worship an incomprehensible God, must have a mysterious religion. But mystery is very distinct from absurdity, or self-contradiction: and a doctrine is not unreasonable, because it is above the reach of our limited powers; if it be not plainly contrary to any of those truths, which we know certainly by intuition or demonstration.
The external evidence of revelation resolves itself wholly into the proof afforded us, that certain events actually took place, in time and manner, as recorded in the Scriptures. If the facts be established by sufficient testimony; the doctrines connected with them are proved to be “the word of God,” and must not be treated as disputable opinions, like the sentiments of human authors: on the contrary, they should be received with reverent and humble submission of the understanding, as divine and infallible instructions, What then can be more unreasonable, than for men to demand demonstrative proof of the doctrines of the
revelation? If the facts be properly authenticated, the doctrines are evinced to be the dictates of infinite wisdom and truth, which is the highest possible demonstration. But testimony is the only direct way of proving facts, to those who were not present when they took place; and it would not be deemed more absurd for a student to attempt the proof of a geometrical problem by testimony, than for a judge to try causes by mathematical deductions. The application of any kind of reasoning or evidence to those things, to which it is in its own nature inapplicable, has often been ex: posed in other matters, as ridiculous in the extreme: but it can never be more absurd, and must always be less mischievous, than when it is introduced into reli. gious enquiries. Yet this is frequently done by men, who are considered as the greatest masters of reasoning; and who speak of those, that deem it rational im. plicitly to believe the testimony of God, as weak and deluded people. But I shall close this part of my subject, by observing, that, till all the internal and exter. nal evidences of the divine original of the scriptures be solidly and completely answered, it is most unrea. sonable and exceedingly unfair, to start objections against particular facts or doctrines contained in them; as they must be truth, if the book that contains them be the word of God: yet this is the grand weapon of modern scepticism and infidelity; and it is doubts less well suited to the purpose of those, who would unsettle the unwary, and impose upon the indolent and ignorant, by insusing prejudices into their minds against the holy religion of our Lord and Saviour Jer sus Christ.
The Rights of God, in respect of his dealings with
: sinful creatures.
AN attentive and impartial consideration of what hath been advanced, concerning the rights of God, as our Creator, Benefactor, and Governor, must convince us, that we have withheld from him that worship, gratitude, love, and obedience, which were justly his due. Whether we review our own conduct, and inspect the state of our hearts; or whether we study the history of our species, and observe the course of the world around us; we shall be compelled to acknowledge, that " all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” If we therefore argue .concerning the divine govern. ment, according to the regulations established in hu. man society; we must conclude from reason, as well as from revelation, that “ by the works of the law shall "no flesh be justified in the sight of God.” For by what law of man can that person be justified, who hath in one instance wilfully broken it? The prince may indeed pardon the transgressor; but the law can do no other than condemn him. Alleviating circumstances, or obedience in other instances, may be inducements
to clemency; but the law respects simply the question, | Has be transgressed, or has he not? If a man is
found guilty, the sentence must be condemnation; and, unless mercy intervene, the appointed penalty must be inflicted; nay, indeed, every exercise of mercy, to those who merit punishment, is a relaxation of justice, and weakens the authority of the administration.
We have already shewn, that God has a right to de. termine what punishment shall be inflicted on his rebellious subjects; as indeed he only is competent to estimate the desert of every transgressor: and the more we investigate the matter with seriousness and impartiality, the less we shall be disposed to object against the solemn language of scripture on this alarming subject. '
If it had been possible for us to have reasoned a priori on the event of our situation in this world; we should probably have concluded that the Lord would not have inflicted the sentence of temporal death, with so many humiliating and agonizing circumstances, on the whole human race without exception: but undeniable facts exclude such vain reasonings, or bold conjectures; and the bodies of all men return to their original dust, though they are only the instruments by which the soul accomplishes its sinful purposes. How then can we know, or from what premises can we conclude, that the Lord will not inflict the penalty of final misery upon the soul, the great agent in rebellion? All our conclusions, from what we think right, to what infinite wisdom will do, must be inconclusive, if not presumptuous. Our reason, if not instructed by revelation, can in this point afford us no certain intelligence; and conjecture must involve terror, in proportion as we know God and our obligations to him. His sure testimony, therefore, alone can give us any infor
mation, on which we may safely depend; and that in. variably declares, that the everlasting misery of body and soul in hell, will be the righteous punishment of the wicked in another world.
But “ vain man would be wise:” and some may perhaps imagine, that the Omnipotent God would have done better, had he prevented the entrance of sin, and the necessity of punishment: or, in other words, they may object to the right of God to permit his creatures to sin, and then to punish them for their crimes. Such insinuations, (for men do not generally speak out on this subject,) involve the most awful blasphemy; and the apostle hath already given the proper answer; “ Nay, but O man, who art thou, that “ repliest against God? shall the thing for med say to of him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus?” We may, however, also remind the objector, that the wisdom of God is infinite, as well as his power. Omnipotence could have prevented the entrance of evil; or at once have annihilated it when it began to exist: but facts prove that the Lord did not judge this consistent with his designs, of ordering all things in subserviency to the display of his own glorious perfections: and, indeed, we may perceive, that an omnipo. tent exclusion of sin and misery could never have consisted with the exercise of dominion over rational agents. The idea indeed implies a denial of his right to govern the world: for if it be incumbent on him to exert his power, in restraining every rational creature from evil, all commands, sanctions, and accountableness must become a nullity. We reay also discern, even in our present state of comparative darkness, that VOL, III.