Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

10

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 your 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. 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. • the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.' 2 Thess. ii. 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.

le WISE

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 temptaticns. 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 left:partially, 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. lxvi. 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. examine me, O Jehovah,

[ocr errors]

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

IS

and prove me ; try my reins and my heart. James i. 2, 3. my brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations ; kpowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

God also promises a happy issue. 1 Cor. x. 13. there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man ; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.' James i. 12. • blessed is the man that endureth temptation ; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.

Yet even believers are not always sufficiently observant of these various operations of divine providence, until they are led to investigate the subject more deeply, and become more intimately conversant with the word of God. Psal. lxxiii. 2, 17. .my feet were almost gone....until I went into the sanctuary of God: then understood I their end.' Dan. xii. 10. • many shall be purified, and made white, and tried ; but the wicked shall do wickedly : and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.'

Having said in the prefatory definition, that the providence of God extends to all things, and that it has enacted certain immutable laws, by which every part of the creation is administered, it may not be an useless digression to inquire in this place, whether, among other fixed regulations, a limit has been set to the duration of human life, which is not to be passed.* That such is the case, Scripture clearly intimates. Job xiv. 5. seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.' Psal. xc. 10. the days of our years are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. From these and similar passages, and especially from the early history of the world, it is evident that God, at least after the fall of man,* limited human life to a certain term, which in the progress of ages, from Adam to David, gradually became more and more contracted ; so that whether this term be one and the same to all, or appointed differently to each individual, it is in the power of no one to prolong or exceed its limits. This is the province of God alone, as is proved beyond all doubt by the promise of long life made by him to his people, and by his addition of fifteen years to the life of Hezekiah when at the point of death. The power of shortening or anticipating the term in question, on the contrary, is not the exclusive privilege of God, though this also is exercised by him, both for purposes of reward and punishment; the

** Tertia quæstio spectat conservationem individuorum, utrum Deus absoluto decreto unicuique homini certum vitæ terminum assignarit, quem nemo ulla ratione aut contrahere aut producere possit.' Curcell:Institutio, III. 11. 1.

* This seems to intimate a belief in the doctrine held by the Fathers and best divines, that if Adam had not sinned, he would not have died. The opinion is expressed in the same doubtful manner in a speech of Raphael :

....... time may come, when men
With angels may participate .....
And from these corporal nutriments perhaps
Your bodies may at last turn all to spirit,
Improv'd by tract of time, and wing'd ascend
Ethereal as we, or may at choice
Here, or in hear’nly Paradises dwell.

Paradise Lost, V. 493.
VOL. I.

36

« AnteriorContinuar »