Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

to see, and which, if he shall live to behold, he shall still find the objects of this visitation ? Let it be remembered that a parent may be punished by the death of his children (as David was), while the children themselves are saved with an everlasting salvation.* But is not the case much the same, if the parent shall be certainly assured of the unhappiness entailed on his posterity by his sin, though he cannot live to witness it? Ham must have suffered, by hearing the curse denounced upon Canaan, and foreseeing the vast distinction to be made, in future dispensations, between his posterity and those of Shem, and even of Japheth. In all such cases, are not the means resorted to for maintaining the moral government of the Deity, the strongest that can well be conceived,-strikingly expressive of his hatred of sin, and calculated to take the most powerful hold of responsible beings ? He addresses himself to the storge of natural affection, the love which parents bear to their children; he “ shews the parents, that, according to the secret order of his judgments, he continues their rewards or punishments after their death, and holds them in submission to his laws by their dearest tie, the tie which binds them to their children.”+ Does it not afford also an admirable opportunity of demonstrating his hatred of the deeds committed, even when the transgressors may themselves be the objects of his love, or may have averted the judgment by penitence, and when other considerations (such as preserving the throne in the house of David) greatly subservient to his grand purpose, may interfere? 1 Kings si. 11, 12. Is. xxxix. 7, 8. i Sam. iii. 14.

But most commonly the posterity on whom the punishment devolves, are not innocent. They are justifying the iniquities of their fathers, by not deploring them,—by prosecuting the same or similar courses,—and thus by abusing the scope given for repentance. And although men may suppose, that when God forbears, he has taken no notice of the sins committed, or in effect forgotten them, nay, the rather on these very accounts, he will eventually shew that they have been accurately observed, that they have been accumulating, that rising up before him, in a course of aggravated obduracy under his mercies, they have been treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. * Behold, ye are risen up in your fathers' stead, an increase of

' sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the Lord against Israel." Num. xxxi. 11. Again, “ Even from the days of

See other examples, 1 Sam. iii. 12, 13. Num. xiv, 32, 33. + Bossuet's Univ. Hist. vol. i. p. 2. $ 4.

P

a

your fathers, ye are gone away from mine ordinances." Mal. iii. 7. The Jews of old time killed the prophets, their posterity followed in the same track, they became worse than their ancestors, they were “ the murderers of the Holy and Just One." It only remained for them to reject the offer of pardon for this crime; farther their iniquity could not proceed; the cup was full, and vengeance must ensue. Like a debt descending to posterity, guilt may be greatly accumulated by successive additions, till payment must be demanded. Now if God observe the proper time of exacting this, if he do not suffer the only fit or possible opportunity of glorifying his holiness and justice to pass, and if the judgment be visibly proportioned to the previously accumulated guilt, then he does enough for his own vindication under the present constitution of things. He proceeds upon two obvious principles,-1. That nations or communities are permanent bodies, susceptible of a certain moral cast, though their members be constantly changing; 2d, That owing to the relations of communities and empires to one another, and to the different departments of his plan, human society falls under the idea of a permanent body, through which some particular kinds of guilt may descend, though the direction may be frequently changed in its progress.—Then he recognises, and makes visible by the manner of his judgments, the unity of a cause, or of some great concern, which he undertakes to plead,-say the cause of pure religion, or of civil and religious liberty, the infractions upon which he will trace through all their ramifications up to the proper season of vengeance. “ Upon you," said our Lord to the Jews, “ shall come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharias.” This was the blood of martyrs in a cause ever the same, though it had repeatedly changed its aspect. Take the Roman empire for another example. It was first heathen, and in this state debased by ambition and ferocity prior to the coming of Christ ; the same spirit was displayed in the cruelties exercised on the Jews, and in the persecution of the primitive Christians ; it then became Christian itself, but soon degenerated, under the influence of the Mystery of iniquity, into a scene of still more aggravated persecution. The prevalent species of moral evil was the same, hostility to the liberties of mankind, darkened at length into hostility to revealed religion, first in the Jewish system, and then in Christianity itself. The empire, throughout all its changes, and even when divided into ten kingdoms, is still considered as the same. Now it belonged to God's

plan, that moral evil of the species referred to should run the utmost length of its course in this empire, accomplishing in the mean time various purposes of trial, correction, attestation of the truth of Christianity, &c.; but while this species of evil, as the fruit of human depravity, and an engine of Satan, who upheld his dominion by the extensive influence of the Roman power, had been all along opposed to the happiness of mankind and the grand purpose of moral restoration, it also belonged to the divine plan, that it should not be overlooked or forgotten, in any of the baleful and obstructive forms in which it had appeared. The Deity is, accordingly, represented as marking the oppressed state of the world, particularly within the sphere of the fourth monarchy prior to the coming of Messiah, Ps. Ixxxii.; as recording the cruelties exercised on the Jews by the Roman power, even when employed as the instrument of Messiah's vengeance, Zech. xiv. 1–3; as carefully observing the persecution of the primitive Christians which succeeded, Rev. ii. 10. ; as listening to the cry of the blood which even then seemed to demand the era of retribution, but desiring " the souls under the altar” to rest for a season, till “ their brethren that should be killed as they were should be fulfilled," that is, till the evil should have risen to its acmé, and developed all its malignity under the last form of antichristian persecution, Rev. vi. 11. This done, and the period defined in prophecy elapsed, he comes forth in the long accumulated vengeance to put down the Mystery of iniquity, and to terminate what is emphatically styled “ the mystery of God” in permitting it so long to exist, Rev. x. 6, 7. Then is the wrath of the nations, the harvest and vintage of the earth, the great battle of God Almighty, “ the last plagues in which his wrath is filled up." Rev. xi. 15, 18; xiv. 14—20. xvi. Babylon falls; and by a strange form of expression, as if God had even recognised the relation of the fourth to the preceding monarchies and their origin, or had traced the evil from the first mighty tyrant, the founder of Nineveh, it is said, “ in her was found the blood of saints, and of martyrs, and of all that were slain upon the earth.Rev. xviii. The triumph consists, not only in rendering the evil while it lasted subservient in its various forms to his own purposes, but in displaying at length his great abhorrence of it by a duly proportioned measure of wrath, in putting it down, and causing it to give place to the moral renovation of the world. That the relation of this triumph to religion and the grand purpose of heaven, may be evident, it

a part of the effective scheme of government intrusted to Messiah; and is therefore represented as conducted by him, Rev. xix., and as receiving its consummation, under the present constitution of things, in the millennial state of his kingdom, Rev. xx.

4. While such are the discoveries by which the holy Scriptures would dissolve our suspicion of a deformed irregularity in the general process of divine government, the same sacred fountains of light shew us upon what basis all this temporary process is justified, and how the honours of divine cquity are fully sustained even with regard to individuals, who must often escape the retribution of their deeds on earth, either through the insufficiency of human institutions, or the long suspension of judgments. This they do by disclosing A FUTURE STATE,— a state in which these individuals, and all mankind, shall be judged and rewarded according to the part they have acted on the stage of time. “After death, the judgment.” The wicked go “ to their own place;" “ in hell they lift up their eyes." And again, “ God hath appointed a day in which he shall jurige the world in righteousness,” by him to whom the present effective administration is committed. In the progress of that administration he is coming,-advancing to the grand universal assize. This none can escape. Whatever be said of particular periods in the previous economy, all, without exception, must have their share in its consummation. 6 Behold he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him.

We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.”—Then “shall ye distinguish between the righteous and the wicked; then shall

ye go forth and look on the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me."—Are they buried in the second death? “ their worm dieth not ;” are they consumed ? " the fire” of their funeral pile “ shall not be quenched.”—But

— then shall “ the righteous shine as the sun in the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever." Acts xvii. 31. Matt. xxv. 31-46. Rev. xx, 11-15.

.

HOSEA xiv. 9.

- Who is wise, he shall understand these things ? prudent, and he shall know them ? for the ways of the Lord ARE RIGHT, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein."

SECT. III.

SKETCH FROM REVELATION OF THE DIVINE PURPOSE

AND PLAN.

[ocr errors]

It is reasonable to think, that besides the common purpose of manifesting the divine power, wisdom and goodness, some spe. cial object was proposed by the Deity in the formation of each world throughout all the planetary systems of the universe, and that he has thus diversified beyond all conception the displays of his glory and the forms of his government.

The particular objects contemplated in the formation of the several worlds might be indicated by the physical structure of each, by the peculiar constitution of its inhabitants as to bodily frame and intellectual powers, or by other singularities of which we can form no idea. But it is surely not unreasonable to suppose, that, among all the diversity of objects, there might be at least one, so peculiar, so supernatural, intentionally so much beyond the sphere of other disclosures of the divine glory and government, that it could neither be known nor fitly accomplished in all its extent, without an immediate revelation from the Deity. Now, that this is the case with regard to our world and the discriminative purpose for which it was originally intended, both the strange aspect of things, and the existence of an explanatory revelation supported by appropriate evidence, sufficiently attest.

The Holy Scriptures give no information concerning the special purposes of other parts of the universe. They only affirm that there is one God, the author of every thing that exists beside himself; that for his pleasure all things are and were created; and that, both as the First Cause and the Last End, he is glorified by all his works. It was to be expected, indeed, that the Scriptures would treat specially of our own world, and be occupied with those subjects the supernatural character of which had rendered revelation necessary. They

« AnteriorContinuar »