Imágenes de página

extended to the first order of fallen beings only so far as regards allowed activity in warfare against the Most High, and their acting as executioners of divine wrath on those deluded by them; but among the second order of fallen beings, to be subservient to the special department of the plan, at once providing for the salvation of a vast multitude, and for other objects pertaining to the intended triumph.

3. The existence and infliction of Physical Evil in all its diversity of forms,- both during the period of Forbearance, for the purpose of proving the permanency of the divine government,—and after the close of that period, for the purpose of full vindication, in the eternal punishment of all incorrigible beings.

4. A glorious Scheme of Recovery and Restitution,-to be accomplished according to what we have denominated,

II. The Special Department of the Plan. The designed Triumph over Moral Evil and all its effects in obscuring the glory of God, was to be effected by a fit Person, primarily appointed to save, or deliver entirely from this species of evil and all its consequences a vast multitude of the human race,--but also, and even in order to this, invested with powers of general administration, sufficient for effecting the proper restitution of all things.

This part of the plan, therefore, comprehends the arrangements on both these heads, all that relates to Salvation, and to the process

and results of General Administration.

SALVATION holds the primary place, as in it the Triumph of the Deity is most completely exemplified.

It consists in liberation, 1st, from guilt by pardon ; 2d, from the domination, or what the Scriptures denominate “ the reign? of sin, by moral regeneration ; 3d, from the very existence of sin, at death; and 4th, from all the consequences, signs or memorials of it, in a blessed resurrection and a state of full and final glorification.

As a deliverance from guilt, it depends, in the divine plan, on a true and proper atonement for sin ; in all the other respects it is effected by the operation of supernatural influence on the subjects themselves.

In order to Atonement, and the establishment in general of worthy grounds of Salvation, the incarnation, obedience, and sufferings of a divine Person were requisite. The Son, the second of the Eternal Three in the order of subsistence, became the substitute. And by his obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, the Father as the Majesty on high, the Judge of all, acting on the part of Deity in this wonderful economy, is most eminently glorified ;-God may be said to be shown and seen as he is, in the essential rectitude of his nature and government; and even physical evil in its penal infliction, is converted into the medium of a triumph over moral evil, much more illustrious than the sufferings of creatures of the highest order could have been, while contrary to its nature, it becomes the basis of interminable happiness to thousands.

The judicial grounds of subjection to the domination of sin being removed, and a title to everlasting honour and happiness secured, by the obedience and sufferings of the Son of God in our nature, the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Christ, produces that moral renovation, by which the triumph is transferred to human subjects, in whom it is at length completely exemplified.

To give place for a proper display of the power and tendencies of moral evil, and of the inefficiency of all ordinary systems of control, and thus to render conspicuous the necessity of Divine Interposition, as well as its truth and efficacy, the Atonement and consequent most effective ministration of the Spirit were long deferred. But had there been no Mediator, and ro " holy seed" during all the period of delay, moral evil

no must have triumphed, to the prejudice, if not the absolute frustration, of the gracious objects proposed. To the plan, therefore, belonged a preparatory dispensation, in which, by typical ordinances, the Great Atonement was foreshown, and its spiritual effects realized. The anticipations, however, were so modified in their form and measure of enjoyment, as still to leave room for the requisite demonstration both of its necessity and of the desirableness of that effective administration which should be founded on its actual accomplishment. To this demonstration the very typical system itself was made to contribute ; the oblation of animals and gifts, even though sanctioned by divine prescription and prosecuted to the utmost extent, being expressly declared, and otherwise proved, to be in themselves of no avail for salvation. In the church, while the true design of the system was notified, the expectation of the coming and reign of Messiah was upheld. Opportunity was thus given for believing to the saving of the soul; and within


the sphere of the church, God showed how able he was to triumph over moral evil by spiritual restoration, even in highly disadvantageous circumstances.

Besides what was gained by delaying for a long period the Purchase of Redemption, much that serves not less to aggrandize the intended triumph, is gained by deferring the Completion of the work to a distant day, and allowing the saved to pass through all the vicissitudes of a state of imperfection and trials. It doubtless belongs to the Triumph that God should, in all ages, be glorified by those exercises of the saved which solely pertain to the present life, and can have no place in heaven, by their faith, their patience, their hope, their resignation, their penitence, their deportment in relation to the visible church and civil society; and that he should glorify himself by furnishing the requisite supports in trying situations, by sustaining and cheering their souls in adversity, by displaying his character as the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, by making all things, even physical evil itself, to work for their good, by aggrandizing religion in the most unfavourable circumstances, and by causing the very sufferings of the faithful contribute to the promotion of its honour and interests. Full scope was to be given for all these forms of prosecuting the Triumph, not only before but after the coming, and under the Reign,

of Messiah. For a long period, accordingly, scarcely any distinction as to external circumstances was to exist between the saved and others, while in certain ages even of the last and best dispensation they were to be exposed to much and severe persecution. They shall yet inherit the earth. But the consummation of the Triumph in deliverance from all imperfection, sorrow, and death, is delayed, till all the other designs of the state of Forbearance shall have been accomplished.

The GENERAL ADMINISTRATION requisite for carrying the purpose fully into effect, embraces subjects so numerous, multifarious, and complicated, that it is scarcely possible for the human intellect to grasp even its outline. A clear, regular, or accurately arranged exhibition of all its details, in their several relations and connexions, seems to be wholly impracticable. Even a slight survey, however, may be sufficient to account for many things on which objections have been founded, and at the same time expose the presumption of sitting in judgment on the ways of God. .

As directed both to the salvation of the chosen, and to the ultimate restitution of all things, the divine administration may be contemplated in two distinct economies, the one prior, and the other posterior, to the exaltation of Christ.

1st, During the prior economy, the strictly mediatorial administration seems to have been limited to the church, or those who possessed and retained divine revelation. Among them it was directed to the accomplishment of the gracious objects proposed in the great purpose of God. But it was so exercised as not to preclude such apostasies, in the total dereliction of divine revelation, as might strikingly evince the power and tendencies and dreadful effects of moral evil, and eventually provide for a demonstration of the inefficiency of all systems of control founded on merely natural principles. Such apostasies, accordingly, did take place, 1st, among the posterity of Cain, whose seduction of the descendants of Seth at length produced a state of degeneracy, oppression, and anarchy, which could no longer be tolerated in the earth ; 2d, among the descendants of Noah, in their revolt to those systems of idolatry and tyranny which eventually became characteristic of the Gentiles; we may add, 3d, even among the Jews, the very people selected for preserving the true religion in the earth, who though they did not altogether relinquish revelation, or suffer it and all the ordinances founded upon it to perish, yet often learned the way of the heathen, deserting for the time the religion of their fathers, as well as corrupting its institutions on other occasions.

All in the scenes of total apostasy, wherever revelation was relinquished and lost, fell necessarily under the government of God absolutely considered, that is, as acting without the intervention of the appointed mediator. In these, accordingly, the demonstration went on and was fully brought out, of the inefficiency of every system of control or amendment founded merely on natural principles. Human legislation, civil government, the efforts of reason in philosophy, and divine judgments, though they served to restrain wickedness and prevent the bonds of society from being completely dissolved, were all proved to be wholly ineffective for reclaiming mankind, or vanquishing the power of moral evil in the heart, and overthrowing its reign in the world. It infected all institutions; it corrupted the very tribunals of justice.—The frequent apostasies of the Jews served farther to shew, that a splendid ceremonial, and the richest temporal benefactions, such as the land of Canaan, the possession of which, with an extraordinary blessing, was suspended on adherence to their system, would, of themselves,

be as ineffective, nay, that even awful displays of the majesty of God, such as pervaded the Mosaic economy, though subservient to the scheme of recovery, were not the appropriate means of its accomplishment. Even the sacred government among that people had been perverted, and in righteous judgment its glory had been eclipsed before its powers were withdrawn. As far as regarded the temporal dominion, which alone could be abused, it was destined to vanish away. Among the Gentiles the feeble control of small states gave place to the energy

of kingdoms, and kingdoms were succeeded by great monarchies, -vast engines of judgment during their formation, and vast engines of secular power after they were formed, --constitutions which seemed likely to reduce the nations to order, and settle them in peace, by gathering rival states and contending kingdoms under one government, and presenting a formidable aspect to all around them. Each of these monarchies, however, was characterised by tyranny, oppression, and hostility to the true religion. None of them presented that " gathering together in one,"—or harmonising under one head, requisite for accomplishing the great purpose of heaven, and predetermined in the plan of its execution. Under all the means within the compass of the absolute government of God, though his supremacy was displayed, and subordinate ends were gained, there was no regeneration of man, no amelioration of the state of the world. Matters went on from bad to worse, till “ all the foundations of the earth were gone out of course."

The crisis which demanded divine interference, or rendered it proper, at length came. The progressive deterioration permitted or occasioned by the misrule of human beings in all the forms of government which could exist on merely natural principles, had palpably shewn the necessity of a dívine person officially assuming the intended corrective administration, and the call was given to him whom the Father had « sanctified and sealed” for this purpose, “ Arise, O God, judge thou the earth : for thou shalt inherit all nations." Ps. lxxxi. John x. 34-36.

All along, however, beyond the scene of Revelation, the gracious department of the purpose,—that which respected salvation and the diffusion of its appropriate means throughout the world, was kept in view; and even the absolute government of God among the apostate nations was so conducted as to prepare for the coming and kingdom of the Saviour.-As the deluge could not purify the world, or free the very creature from the bondage of corruption, by preventing moral evil from ever regaining its ascendancy in the earth, intimation was given

« AnteriorContinuar »