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immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most true, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most holy will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and in truth, forgiving iniquity. and transgression and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just and most terrible in his judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”*

It would be easy to adduce from the Scriptures, in which God declared himself to his ancient people, the proof of each and all of these glorious attributes. Indeed, in the Jewish, more even than in the Christian Scriptures, the name of God is abundantly declared. In the New Testament, God is rather represented than declared. In Jesus Christ, his Son, we have set before our eyes, the very brightness of the Father's glory, the express image of his person. But in Old Testament times, ere yet the Son of God was manifested, while men were too low in intellect and too corrupt in feeling to discern the visible image of the invisible God through the veil of humanity, God vouchsafed to his people such full and copious and repeated declarations of his attributes, that whatever light has since been shed upon their individual excellence, and their harmonious operation in the Divine dispensations, little or nothing has been added to them. Now, as then proclaimed to Moses, his name and memorial is, “ The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.”+

It is indeed to be admitted, that all the language in which God speaks of himself in the Jewish Scriptures does not, if rigorously interpreted, accord with those views of the Divine character, especially with those lofty and sublime views of the Divine nature, which have been gathered from this source into our Confes

* Confession of Faith, chap. ii. sec. 1. + Exod. xxxiii. 6, 7..

sion. Thus we read, familiarly, of his eyes, and hands, and feet, and face, as if he were flesh, and not spirit-of his being angry, and grieved, and jealous, and revengeful, as if he were of like passions with ourselves-of his being restrained or controlled, as if his will were not absolute-of his being perplexed, as if his wisdom were at fault--of his repenting, as if his purpose were inconstant, or his counsel had been frustrate.

All such representations are, no doubt, inappropriate and unworthy in relation to the lofty truth; yet, were they necessary and inevitable in relation to the low and inadequate capacities of those whom they were designed to instruct. Man, in his best estate, cannot comprehend God. No language of man, or of angels, is competent to express or unfold his spiritual nature, his infinite perfections; and hence, if God would speak of himself to us, he must, if he would speak to our apprehension, speak by language of man, which is necessarily improper, and unworthy of the theme. Even in the New Testament Scriptures, he has not laid aside the same modes of speech. Indeed, so convenient and so necessary is it, that even philosophic infidels, who have impeached the inspiration of the Scriptures on this very ground, have not been able to avoid it.* And in those ages of men's mental childhood, when the great lessons to be taught them were not so much profound or sublime views of God's spiritual nature, as just and strong practical views of his moral character and government, such humanized descriptions, though unfit to produce the one effect, were better fitted to promote the other, and the more important. Thus, when he is spoken of as angry, his anger is uniformly directed against the sins of his people as afflicted, it is in their afflictions--as jealous and revengeful, it is in regard to the rights and prerogatives of his Godhead—as perplexed or repenting, it is from the solicitudes of his love to unite in harmony what sin doth set at variance, the

* Lord Bolingbroke.

happiness of his people, and the honour of his name.

These explanations are not devised to serve a purpose, they are derived from the Scriptures themselves. While, in condescension to man's poor capacity, they deal largely in such imperfect representations of Jehovah's nature, they abound also in others which are sufficient to correct or prevent all unworthy or hurtful conceptions of it; and to convey, besides, the purest and loftiest views of his being and perfections, which the most enlarged and elevated mind can admit. As science has both corrected and enlarged our knowledge of the laws and motions of the solar system, while yet it has not attempted to alter the language in which the popular mind doth naturally speak of them, so Scripture, in like manner, has rectified and exalted all our conceptions of God, though in accommodation to our infirmity, it speaks and allows us also to speak of him after the manner of man.

I think it important to remark here, that the principle of the observation now made in regard to the terms in which God spake of himself to his ancient people, applies with equal force to the nature of the entire dispensation under which they were placed. It was designed and adapted throughout to the infancy of spiritual life. He dealt not with his ancient people as with sons full grown, but as with babes; who differed little in the treatment they received from servants. Hence “ he bare them and carried them all the days of old,” as a father the child which cannot go. . Instead of committing them to the guidance of great principles of life and conduct, he placed them, like little children, under subjection to ordinances, saying, " Taste not, touch not, handle not. And as if they were wanting in that forethought which is usually the distinctive characteristic of mature years, he sought to engage their obedience to his statutes by the power of present and temporal, as well as future and eternal sanctions.

You will now perceive that this specialty in the state of God's ancient people must, of course, mate

rially modify the nature of his dealings with themand, by consequence, affect considerably the views in which they illustrate his character. As a father diversifies his instructions, and exactions, and discipline, and indulgences, according to the different ages, and capacities, and tempers, and destinations, of his chil. dren-so, no doubt, would God, as the wise Father of his people, regulate his dealings with them, according to the necessities in their spiritual condition and progress. If, now, he dealeth with us as with sons, it may be inferred he would deal with them, of old time, as with children in his family. If to us he vouchsafes deeper insight into the mystery of the Father and of Christ, greater freedom and confidence of access to his presence, and greater fulness of spiritual privilege in his family: then, we may expect, along with more of tenderness, and forbearance, and condescension, in his demeanour, that he would exercise more rigour in his demands, and less of liberality in his gifts; and, and, though he is "for ever the same," and under every dispensation must maintain essentially the same character, yet as differently developed, it were not reasonable to look for an equally glorious manifestation of his name under the former as under the latter dispensation.*

I. Keeping this in view, let us now bid you contemplate Jehovah's character as it is disclosed in the fact of the election of this people, as a people to himself, from among the other families and nations of the earth. They were originally undistinguished among men, nor was it on the ground of any self-created distinction or superiority that they were subsequently assumed to be a peculiar people unto God above all people. The ground and principle of their separation is explicitly declared to have been the good pleasure of God. có The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn to your

* 2 Cor. iii. 7.

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fathers.” And, again, in terms which exclude all regard to their personal character, as well as their political estate, it was said unto them: “ Not for thy righteousness, nor for the uprightness of thy heart, dost thou go to possess the land. Understand, therefore, that the Lord, thy God, giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness, for thou art a stiff-necked people. * Not for your sakes, do I this, be it known unto you, but for my holy name's sake. Nothing is more evident, in point of fact, from the first origin throughout the whole course of their history, that Israel did not choose God, but that they were chosen of him. A Syrian ready to perish was their father. Abraham seems to have served other gods like the rest of men, when God first called him from his country and kindred; and amid the perpetual and grievous perverseness and backslidings which at all times characterized his posterity, it is impossible to doubt that their relation was upheld and perpetuated on grounds derived wholly from God himself.

In these lights, we cannot fail to see in the God of Israel the glory of the Sovereign, who doeth in this, and in all things, according to the counsel of his own absolute and immutable will. This principle rules under the better covenant. God's spiritual people also are chosen in Christ Jesus before the world be. gan. Their election is not of works but of grace, not of man that willeth but of God who calleth; so that, though on very different scales, and with very unequal consequences as regards the objects of its exercise, God is manifested in both dispensations, as choosing his people on grounds derived entirely from himself.

This view of God's character, I am aware, men do not love to contemplate. The glory of his sovereignty they are apt to regard as no glory. Yet of none of his Divine prerogatives is he more jealous. Even while he proclaims all his goodness, he expressly re'serves to himself the power of exercising it according

Deut. ix. 5, 6.

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