Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

abroad in their hearts, they are rendered happy by contemplating his counsel and agency, as extending to every thing great and minute in the works of creation and providence. Could they be made to believe that a single event took place not included in the divine plan, it would dimin. ish their, enjoyment, by weakening their confidence in God. Should they be told that his decrecs extend to all which he accomplishes immediately by his own hand and by unintelligent instruments, but not to those things accomplished by intelligent agents, such a view of the subject would be far from exciting that entire confidence in God, which it is both their duty and their happiness to exercise. They clearly perceive, that if his plan does not cover the whole ground, including what is done by other agents, as well as what he does directly with his own hand; and what is done by evil as well as good agents, his plan must be defi. cient and without consistency. They perceive such a concatenation in events, and such a connection of agencies, irrational and rational, good and evil, that nothing like a system of providence could be formed, which does not comprehend and direct all these agencies. Whatever difficulty they may feel in reducing all these events to one system, placed in the hand of one Supreme Agent, still they find the matter to be so represent. ed in the word of God: nor can they conceive of any other view of the subject which appears either so consistent or so consoling.

A RETROSPECT OF PART 1.

Before we pass on to our second grand division, I wish to give more prominence to several thoughts which are suggested by this part of the work. These will be presented under three or four distinct heads of remark.

1. It is now made evident, that Christian doctrines are exhibited to us, in the inspired writings, as so many facts. In the Introduction it was remarked, that the scripture considers its doctrines, which claim our belief, as facts and not fables. And has not our attention to the preceding summary served to show the correctness of that remark ? We must have perceived that the doctrines are exhibited to us, not as theories proposed for experiment; but as things that have an actual existence, and are therefore denominated truths ;. because they can no more be reversed, than a fact can become a fiction. This will apply to every doctrine in our series.

Surely the doctrine with which it commenced, is not proposed as a theory, but as an immensely solemn reality. “ There is one God." “ There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.” Nor is it intimated, that it any more belongs to us to form a character for the Deity, than to give him existence. His existence and his character are independent

of our theorizing. A thousand different characters may be invented and ascribed to him; but he is not altered by these inventions of ours. "He is in one mind, and who can turn him?" If the sentiments we entertain concerning him agree with the reality, they are the truth; otherwise they are error.

The terms truth and fact are applicable to every other scriptural doctrine, as much as to the existence and character of God. If the doctrines, which are contained in the preceding Articles, are such as are authorized by the scriptures, they are so many facts. The scriptures do not reveal it as an ingenious theory, that a dependent univerve is a possible event; and that it might owe its origin and preservation to the wisdom, power, and benevolence of God. No, they state it as a fact, that such a universe is actually in existence; and that to the God of Israel belongs all the glory of originating and preserving it.

The moral government of God is no more proposed as a theory than his existence and attributes. The scriptures never speak of it as though it were left to us to decide, whether the LORD should reign over us. No form of a constitution is sent down to us to modify, and then adopt or reject, as we shall think proper. The scriptures declare the fact, that “ the Lord is king forever ;” and that “his kingdom ruleth over all.” Ps. x. 16; ciii. 19. His law is enacted and promulgated, with its solemn sanctions anne

nexed, and even now it is the rule of his administration.

Rebellion against the government of God, is not exhibited in the scriptures as a thing which might occur somewhere in his dominions, and in some period of duration : on the contrary, it is mentioned as a real occurrence; and the time when and place where it first broke out are specified. What is said concerning the universal extent and en. tireness of the defection of Adam's race, is treated of as matter of fact, which our belief or disbelief will no more alter, than it will our very existence. On the subject of human depravity, the scriptures furnish Do theories. On this, as well as other subjects, men will adopt such sentiments as they please ; but this is certain, there is but one sentiment which will be supported by the word of God, or by existing facts.

The doctrine of atonement for sin, is also here presented to us, not as a theory, but as a reality. It is not announced to us, that our offended Sovereign has an intention of providing some remedy for his rebellious creatures in this lower world, some expiation for their sin; and that he wishes to consult with them, concerning the person and qualifications of him that shall become the expiatory sacrifice. The fact is announced, that God has provided himself a lamb—that he has laid help upon One that is mighty—and that there is no other name given. under heaven amongst men whereby we must be saved. Ps. Ixxxix. 19. Acts iv. 12. It is not now left for us to decide the question, whether we need an atonement, and if any, whether we need one greater than can be made by a siūless man, or an incarnate seraph. The question is already decided by Him, from whose decision there is no appeal, that without the shedding of blood sin can never be remit. ted: nor is the decision less absolute, that it must be the blood of Im. manuel, God manifest in the flesh. Heb. ix. 22. Acts xx. 28. The free offer which the gospel presents to every one of the human

race, through the atonement of Christ, is another fact. It is no fiction, no pretence, but a blessed reality. “ The Spirit and the bride say, Come. Whosoever will may take of the water of life freely."

Nor is it less a matter of fact, that every man is naturally disposed to reject this gracious offer. It is revealed to us, not as a mere probabil. ity, but as a certainty, that this is the reception the gospel offer will receive among the unregenerated all over the world. The sacred his. tory adds confirmation to this view of the unregenerate character. To dispute against it, then, is not to oppose an ingenious hypothesis, but to deny scripture statements in regard to matters of fact.

The doctrine of regeneration by the agency of the Spirit of God on the sinner's heart, effectually removing his opposition to a cordial reconciliation, is presented to us in the scriptures, not as a speculative point —not as though such a divine agency would be sufficient to account for the subjugation of the rebellious heart; but it is exhibited to us as the only way in which it ever has been or ever will be subjugated. Have any of the children of men become the sons of God ? then we know they have experienced a birth, which is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John i. 12, 13,

Divine sovereignty, in conferring the grace of regeneration, if reveal. ed at all, is not revealed as a theory, but as a fact. . We are not told that God might, if he pleased, act the part of the potter, in forming vessels for glory and for destruction ; but that this is what he is actu. ally doing : “ Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Rom. ix. 18.

Nor is the election of grace any more hypothetical than its sove. reignty. It is not proposed to us as a matter of inquiry, whether God might not possibly have had a determination, just what success to give to the proclamation of pardon through the redemption of his Son : but as a weighty truth, that such a determination has always had existence in his holy mind. While men are disputing the matter, whether it be right for God to have a purpose concerning the salvation of one sinner more than another, the fact exists. He does not wait for us to become agreed on the question ; but is continually drawing those to his Son, who were given to him before the foundation of the world.” Whom he did predestinate, them he also called.”

The doctrine of justification through the atonement of Christ, in dis. tinction from justification by he deeds of the law, is presented to us in the scripture as a system which is in operation ; and as the only one by which

any of our fallen race ever have been, or can be freed from a state of condemnation. “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses upto them.” 2 Cor. 5. 18.

The cretain perseverance in holiness of all those who are born of God, is exhibited to us in the scriptures as having all the reality of an event. It is not, that the covenant of grace might be so ordered in all things, as to insure the salvation of such as are brought within the compass of its promises ; but that so it is ordered: it is not that they might be, but that they “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” 3 Sam. xxiii. 5. 1 Pet. i. 5.

The resurrection of the dead, the day of judgment, and the sentence of approbation to be passed upon the righteous, and of condemnation upon the

wicked, are scenes which are yet future, but no less real than if they were now passing before us. The word has already gone out of the mouth of Him who is the faithful and true Witness, that “the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they who have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damna. tion." No one who has read the scriptures with the least attention, can view the doctrine of the resurrection, followed with the judgment, and the rewards of eternity, as anything less than a most solemn reality.

Nor is the Article which closes our doctrinal series, exhibited to us in the scriptures as any more problematical than those which precede it. The representation is not, that God might, had he seen fit, have laid a plan which should have embraced all that he has made, and all the events that have come to pass; and that, if he had pleased, he might have carried such a plan into execution : but it is exhibited to us as an incontrovertible fact, that such a plan has actually been laid, and is steadily going into operation—that God is working all things after the counsel of his own will.

We are now better prepared than we were in our outset, to see why the scriptures make such frequent use of the word truth, in application to the doctrines they reveal. They exhibit these doctrines as realities -as so many existing facts. Mere theories may be received or rejected, as shall suit our fancy or convenience; but facts are true, whe. ther believed or disbelieved. Nor does our belief or disbelief have any influence in rendering them more or less real. Christianity is presented to us in the scriptures as an infinitely interesting reality; and every doctrinal proposition, which this religion contains, is intended to make known to us some important fact concerning the attributes, designs, and works of God. The preacher of the gospel is therefore considered as notbing more than a reporter of facts. See 1 Pet. i. 12.

It ought to be understood by every theological student, and indeed by every candidate for the retributions of eternity, that the inspired word, " the word of truth,” does not present us with a number of religious theories, giving each of us his choice, to select from among them the one which shall best agree with his preconceived opinions, or which shall be most congenial to his taste: but it presents us with a connect. ed system of facts, concerning the Eternal Being, and his dominion over his works, especially his intelligent creatures-concerning the ruined condition of man, together with the provision made for his redemption, and the everlastingly happy or wretched consequences of an acceptance or a rejection of the proffered mercy. This system of facts, which constitute “sound doctrine,” or “the doctrine which is accord. ing to godliness,” we are required to believe, because it is founded in truth, and supported by the most ample divine testimony.

II. It becomes us as Christians, and even as believers in the divine origin of the Christian religion, to employ ourselves to harmonize those things in the Bible, which at the first glance seem discordant, rather than to set one truth in array against another, to make the invader destroy the life of its fellow. We ought to suffer them all to live in peace and harmony ; for it is their nature so to do. Let the reader be reminded,

that it is not his work, nor mine, to tell what the scripture should have said, but rather to understand what it has said. And it belongs to one as much as to the other, to endeavor to reconcile the seeming contrari. eties which are found in this acknowledged standard of truth. This is both our duty and interest. What good can it do the reader, any more than the writer, to disturb the harmony of the Christian doctrines ? This will have no tendency to promote our salvation; which must be effected by the sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.

Nothing is more common than to find professed believers in divine revelation, who select from among the truths revealed, which of them they will believe : and not only so, but they will make these selected truths the instruments with which to oppose others, that are revealed with equal clearness. A few examples of this will now be given.

In the scriptures, punishing justice, and pardoning mercy, are both as. cribed to God. But, instead of seeking to harmonize these attributes, it is the manner of some, to make use of the one to destroy the other. They will tell you, they do not believe it to be consistent with the char. acter of God to punish sin ; for they believe in a God of mercy. In. stead, however, of making use of the attribute of mercy to cast contempt on that vindicatory justice, which also belongs to God, let us receive scriptural testimony in favor of both, and rest satisfied that there is no real disagreement between them.

How often do we hear one and another saying, “I do not believe men are dependent on God for their exercises of heart, because the scripture represents them to be free agents, who make their own choice.” It is here taken for granted, that both these can not be true. But why is this taken for granted ? The voluntary agency of men is taught in the sacred volume; but their dependent agency is also as clearly taught. Others there are who say, they believe that men are de. pendent on God for their volitions, and therefore they do not believe they are free agents. This reasoning is no more unscriptural than the other. In both cases, one truth of God's word is made use of to de. stroy another which corresponds with it. How much more becoming, it would be for us, “unto whom the word of God came,” to receive upon such infallible testimony both these truths, with this conclusion ; that if we can not perceive their agreement, still it

may

be intuitively clear to Him whose understanding is infinite.

I do not believe, says one, that God has determined all things that take place; for it is certain that men are often blamed for not acting otherwise than they do ; but if God has decreed their actions, how could they act otherwise ?" In the case of the crucifixion of the Sa. vior, is it not as unequivocally declared, that it was done according to the determinate counsel of God, and by the wicked hands of men ? Acts ii. 23. Both these truths are taught with great plainness and frequency throughout the volume of inspiration; why, then, are they not received with equal credit? And why is one taken to oppose the other? Some

say, “ sinners are not under obligation to repent and believe, because it is the work of God to give repentance and faith." Others say, “sinners are under obligation to repent and believe, therefore repentance and faith can not be the gift of God.” But what saith the

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »