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but to judge them. Not clothed with love, but in flaming fire. Not to do them good, but to take vengeance : (2 Thes. i. S.) Not out of love to them, but to show his wrath: (Rom. ix. 22.) Not to purify them, but to cast them, like worthless chaff, into unquenchable fire: (Matthew iii. 12.) Not to fit them for, and finally to bring them to heaven, with the good wheat, but as tares to burn them up: (Matthew xiii. 30.) Not aiming at their good, as vessels of mercy, but aiming at their destruction as vessels of wrath: (Rom. ix. 22.) Not to discipline them for a season, but to punish them with everlasting destruction: (2 Thes. i. 9.) send them into everlasting fire; (Matthew xxv. 41.) into everlasting punishment, (Verse 46.) where the worm never dies, and the fre is not quenched, (Mark ix. 44. 46. 48.) but the smoke of their torment shall ascend for ever and ever. (Rev. xix. 3.)—And the eternity of bell-torments will effectually convince the whole system that God has an infinite regard to something else besides merely the good of his creatures as it is meet and fit he should. (See Mal. i. 6. 14.) And this part of his conduct will help to complete his picture, and finish his true character, in the eyes of all intelligences. As yet, mankind hardly believe him in earnest. Words do not answer the end; but actions speak louder than words, and will work a thorough conviction.
As for the common plea, that "God needs nothing from his creatures, and so can only aim at their good;" it is a way of reasoning contrary to the universal sense of mankind, in all cases in any measure analogous. The father does not require honour from his son, merely because he needs it, but because he deserves it. The master does not require reverence from his servant, merely because he needs it, but because he deserves it. And if the one should despise his father, and the other treat his master with contempt, they would soon feel the force of that reasoning, in Mal. i. 6. "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master. If, then, I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts." (Verse 9.) "And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor, will he be pleased with thee, or ac
cept thy person? saith the Lords of hosts." (Verse 14.) "Cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing; for I am a GREAT KING, saith the Lord of hosts."
Nor is there any way to establish that maxim which yet lies at the foundation of almost all the modern schemes of religion, but to prove, either that the Deity does not deserve supreme honour or that the moral governor of the world is not just; for if he deserves it, he ought to have it. And it belongs to the moral governor of the world to see justice done, i. e. to see that every one has his due.
And, indeed, it is the chief happiness of the inhabitants of heaven, to see God universally honoured, and each one to join to give him the glory that is his due. They incessantly cry, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of thy glory." (Isaiah vi. 3.) "They fall down before the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy to receive glory, and honour, and power; for thou hast created all things; and for thy pleasure they are and were created." (Rev. iv. 10, 11.)
If the honour of God is of infinite importance in itself, then it is infinitely desirable for itself; and then to see God honoured and exalted, will be of all things most happifying to holy intelligences; and that plan which is suited to this, will be the most happifying plan; and there may be the greatest degree of happiness on such a plan, and yet all things be so contrived as that it may eternally appear in the most striking light, that there was something God had an infinite regard to, besides the happiness of his creatures. On this hypothesis all the parts of God's present plan may be accounted for.
But if the honour of God is of no importance in itself, then it is not desirable for itself; nor will it be a happifying sight to see God exalted; nor that plan that is suited to exalt God, a happifying plan; yea, no good end can be answered by such a plan; and so no part of God's present plan can be accounted for.
If the creature's happiness is the only thing of worth, then infinite wisdom and almighty power should be employed only
to promote it; and the everlasting punishment of the damned answer no good end; as, on this hypothesis, none can deserve it, nor can God desire it, or any holy being acquiesce in it, or receive any instruction from it*. And why God ever permitted sin or misery to enter into this world, will be absolutely unaccountable; as will every step God has taken with fallen intelligences ever since satan's apostacy; for why did not God instantly restore fallen angels and fallen man, and immediately confirm them, if their welfare was the only thing of worth?
In a word, I humbly conceive this position, that the welfare of creatures is the only thing of worth, and the only thing to be regarded by the moral governor of the universe, is one of the most groundless, irrational, unscriptural positions, that ever was laid down; little, if any thing short of, nay, worse than the grossest absurdities practised by the heathen; for what did they worse than "worship and serve the creature more than the Creator?" (Rom. i. 25.) But on this hypothesis, the creature alone is to be served; and God himself, the glorious creator, is to become his almighty servant; and to be loved only and merely for his faithfulness in the creature's service. The creature has taken the throne, and the Creator is become his servant. No wonder such a scheme suits the heart of fallen creatures. And its being ever broached, or ever received in God's dominions, by any of his creatures, is a full demonstration that they are fallen indeed. Yea, not only fallen, but sunk into so great degeneracy and delusion, as to think that God himself is fallen too, and quite turned to be of their side. And now they love him, and think all is well! (Psalm 1. 21.) "Thou thoughtest I was altogether such an one as thyself."
But it is time to proceed, as was proposed,
III. To make some practical improvement of the whole. And,
1. What has been said may be of use to assist us to form right ideas of God. The law gives us a true picture of the moral perfections of the divine nature. God is exactly what the law speaks him to be; yet the gospel sets his moral (*See this proved in my True Religion Delineated, vol, i. page 260.)
perfections in a still clearer light; the glory of God shines exceedingly bright in the face of Jesus Christ. But God's universal plan, comprehending law and gospel, and all God's dispensations from the foundation of the world to the final consummation of all things, sets his moral character in the completest and most striking point of light; and puts us under vast advantages, even in this present state, to make a swift progress in the knowledge of the Deity. Indeed, had we that high relish for divine knowledge; that good taste for divine beauty which they in heaven have, our proficiency might bear a great resemblance to theirs. But, Oh, how stupid are we to divine things! Having eyes to see, and see not; ears to hear, and hear not; neither do we understand; hearts of stone, that have no feeling. We are even as beasts before him; so that while his glory shines all around us, we are in profound darkness. Oh, for the influences of the blessed spirit, to awaken our attention to the manifestations he makes of himself, and to give us a true taste and relish to the beauty of divine things! Then would our hearts be enlarged to love the Lord our God, and to fear him, and to walk in all his ways, and to rejoice in the wisdom of his universal govern→ ment. Oh, for that blessed day, when we shall receive the holy spirit in a full and perfect measure! Then shall we see no longer in this dark manner, but, as it were, face to face; shall, in a measure, at once, take in the idea which God has exhibited of himself, and be ravished with the wisdom, glory, and beauty of his universal plan.
2. What has been said, may be of use to assist us not only to form right notions of all finite intelligences as being, in their best estate, at an infinite remove from self-sufficiency and absolute independence; the peculiar prerogatives of him who alone is by nature immutable: but it may also be of special use to assist us to form just notions of the true character of mankind now in their fallen state. Facts are stubborn things. The steady conduct of mankind, from the fall to this day, gives their true character beyond dispute. Only think what they ought to be, perfectly in love with God, and full of love to one another; and see what their conduct has always been. towards God, and towards one another. Towards God-" Ye
do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the com ing of the just ONE; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers." (Acts vii. 51,52.) Towards one another-Living in malice aud envy, hateful and hating one another.” (Titus iii. 3.)
"Who live in hatred, enmity and strife,
And so obstinate in their sinful ways, that, in fact, no external means have ever been able to reclaim them ; so alienated from God, that no arguments can persuade them to be reconciled; so that notwithstanding all the outward means which have been used, yet still the world is as it was. The christian nations very little better, if so good, as some heathen have been. (Matthew xii. 41.)
3. What has been said may be of use to realize to us the infinitely evil nature and dreadful consequences of sin. Let us view the lake of fire and brimstone, and see what will be the issue of the grand rebellion. Sin has turned angels into devils, and banished them from heaven, and will confine them for ever to the burning lake, with all their adherents from this apostate world. Let us view God's conduct towards sin, from the beginning of the world to the consummation of all things, and we may see how infinitely he hates it, and how resolved he is to suppress it. Oh, how infinitely dreadful had been our case in this fallen world, had a Saviour never been provided!
4. What has been said tends to give us the sublimest ideas of the divine interposition on the fall of man, to defeat satan's designs, and bring infinite good out of all the evil that satan intended. O, the depth of the knowledge, wisdom, and grace of God! Glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders! This theme is worthy of eternal contemplation,