Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

to manifest the wickedness of the sinner, not to create it. The other position, that God eventually converts every evil deed into an instrument of good, contrary to the expectation of sinners, and overcomes evil with good, * is sufficiently illustrated in the example of Jo. seph's sale by his brethren, Gen. xlv. 8. Thus also in the crucifixion of Christ, the sole aim of Pilate was to preserve the favour of Cæsar ; that of the Jews to satisfy their own hatred and vengeance ; but God, whose hand and counsel had determined before

every thing that was to be done,' Acts iv. 28. made use of their cruelty and violence as instruments for effecting the general redemption of mankind.

of mankind. Rom. xi. 11. through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles.' 1 Cor. xi. 19. there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.' Philipp. i. 12, 14. “the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.'

Again, as God's instigating the sinner does not render him the author of sin, so neither does his hard

*

... If then his Providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,

Paradise Lost, I. 162.

Who seeks
To lessen thee, against his purpose serves
To manifest the more thy might; his evil
Thou usest, and from thence creat'st more good.

VII. 613. See also XII. 470. • Denique providentia divina circa peccatum jam commissum se exerit, non tantum puniendo ipsum ex severitate, aut condonando ex misericordia, sed etiam ad bonum aliquem finem inservire faciendo, contra perpetrantis intentionem. Ita Deus usus est venditione Josephi, ad conservandum familiam patris et regnum Ægypti, ne fame perirent; et scelere Judæorum Jesum morti tradentium, ad generis humani redemptionem. Curcell. Institutio, III. 12. 8.

ening the heart or blinding the understanding involve that consequence; inasmuch as he does not produce these effects by infusing an evil disposition, but on the contrary by employing such just and kind methods, as ought rather to soften the hearts of sinners than harden them. First, by his long-suffering. Rom. ii. 4, 5. despisest thou the riches of his long-suffering ....but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath ?' Secondly, by urging his own good and reasonable commands in opposition to the obstinacy of the wicked ; as an anvil, or adamant, is said to be hardened under the bammer. Thus Pharaoh became more furious and obdurate in proportion as he resisted the commands of God. Exod. v. 2.' who is Jehovah ?' vii. 2. 3. • thou shalt speak all that I command thee....and I will harden Pharaoh's heart.? Isai. vi. 10. make the heart of this people fat,'—that is to say, by the repeated inculcation of the divine commands, as in xxviii. 13. the word of Jehovah was unto them precept upon precept.... that they might go and fall backward.' Thirdly, by correction or punishment. Ezek. iii. 20. when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die.' Jer. v. 3. thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved.... they have made their faces harder than a rock.' The hardening of the heart, therefore, is usually the last punishment inflicted on inveterate wickedness and unbelief in this life. 1 Sam. ii. 25. they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.' God often hardens in a remarkable manner the powerful and rebellious princes of this world, in

order that through their insolence and haughtiness his glory may be magnified among the nations. Exod. ix. 16. “ for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power.' See also x. 2. compared with Rom. ix. 17. even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee.' Exod. xiv. 4, 17. I will be honoured upon Pharaoh. Yet the act of hardening is not so exclusively the work of God, but that the wicked themselves fully co-operate in it, though with any view but that of fulfilling the divine will. Hence Pharaoh is said to harden his own heart, Exod. ix. 34. when he saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.' 2 Chron. xxxvi. 13.

he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto Jehovah.' Psal. xcv. 8. • harden not

heart.' Zech. vii. 12. • they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law and the words which Jehovah of hosts hath sent.'

Thus also with regard to the blinding of the understanding. Deut. xxviii. 15. compared with v. 28. • it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah thy God....Jehovah shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart,' that is, by withdrawing the light of his grace, by confounding or stupifying the faculties of the mind, or by simply permitting Satan to work these effects in the sinner. Rom. i. 28.

Rom. i. 28. even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.' 2 Cor. iv. 4. in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.' Eph. ii. 2.

your heart."

- the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.' 2 Thess. ii. 11.

2 Thess. ï. 11. for this cause God shall send them strong delusion.' Lastly, God is said to deceive men, not in the sense of seducing them to sin, but of beguiling them to their own punishment, or even to the production of some good end. Ezek. xiv. 9—11. “if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I Jehovah have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him,' &c..... and they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity....that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me.' God first deceived the already corrupt and covetous prophet, by disposing his mind to prophesy things acceptable to the people, and then deservedly cut off both the people who inquired of him, and the prophet of whom they inquired, to deter others from sinning in a similar manner; because on the one hand a bad intention had been displayed on the part of the inquirers, and on the other a false answer had been returned, which God had not commanded.

To this view of providence must be referred what is called temptation, whereby God either tempts men, or permits them to be tempted by the devil or his agents. Temptation is either for evil or for good.

An evil temptation is when God, as above described, either withdraws his grace, or presents occasions of sin, or hardens the heart, or blinds the understanding. This is generally an evil temptation in respect of him who is tempted, but most equitable on the part of the Deity, for the reasons above-mentioned. It also serves the purpose of unmasking hypocrisy ;*

** Yet I will not insist on that which may seem to be the cause on God's part; as his judgement on our sins, the trial of his own, the un masking of hypocrites' Of Reformation in England, I. 5.

for God tempts no one in the sense of enticing or persuading to sin, (see James i. 13. as above,) though there be some towards whom he deservedly permits the devil to employ such temptations. We are taught in the Lord's prayer to deprecate temptations of this kind; Matt. vi. 13. “ lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'*

A good temptation is that whereby God tempts even the righteous for the purpose of proving them, not as though he were ignorant of the disposition of their hearts, but for the purpose of exercising or manifesting their faith or patience, as in the case of Abraham and Job ; or of lessening their self-confidence, and reproving their weakness, that both they themselves may become wiser by experience, and others may profit by their example ; as in the case of Hezekiah, 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. whom “God leftpartially, or for a time—to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.' He tempted the Israelites in the wilderness with the same view. Deut. viii. 2. to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no.' Psal. Ixvi. 10. thou, O God, hast proved us, thou hast tried us as silver is tried.' 1 Pet. i. 7. that the trial of your faith....might be found unto praise.' iv. 12. • beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.' Rev. ii. 10. behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried.'

This kind of temptation is therefore rather to be desired. Psal. xxvi. 2. 6 examine me, O Jehovah,

* Ab illo malo. Tremellius. from that evil one.

« AnteriorContinuar »