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be infinitely perfect, and of the highest possible advantage to all creatures. "The Lord reigneth, "let the earth rejoice: for nothing, but enmity, and rebellion, can be dissatisfied. The law also, being holy, just, and good, was dictated by perfect love. Like a wise and kind father, the Lord requires us to love him with all our hearts," and, "to love others as ourselves :" every other requirement may be readily resolved into these two great commandments; and, if they were universally obeyed, universal harmony and felicity would be the consequence. Yet this is the law, against which the corrupt passions of man's heart rise in desperate enmity!-Who then can deny that GOD IS LOVE?
But the law is enforced by an awful sanction, and it denounces an awful curse against every transgressor: what then shall we say to this? It would not perhaps be difficult to prove, that the punishments, threatened in the law and inflicted by the justice of God, result from love directed by infinite wisdom: not love of the individuals whose final condemnation is determined, but enlarged benevolence to universal being through eternal ages. This, however, would carry us too far from our subject: it must therefore suffice to observe, that in the government of accountable creatures, who act voluntarily, and are influenced by motives, the denunciation of punishment must form a part of the system: and, if this punishment be only inflicted on the disobedient, and do not exceed the heinousness of their crimes; while it tends to retain multitudes in obedience, and preserve the universe from the effects of general re
bellion; it must prove a public benefit, and consist with wise and holy love. That must be the most beneficent plan, which secures the greatest, most extensive, and most permanent advantages to the most excellent part of moral agents: and the philosophical notion, that the felicity even of sinful creatures is the ultimate end proposed to himself by the Governor of the world, is not more repugnant to scripture, than to the common sense and opinion of mankind in similar cases. A wise ruler of a nation, in proportion as he loved his people, would be careful, by good laws impartially executed, to restrain the ill-disposed from injuring their fellow subjects, and disturbing the peace of the community: and, if this made it necessary to punish with death some individuals, these would be considered as suffering for the public good; and, provided they deserved their doom, it would not be deemed an impeachment of his paternal love to his people. On the contrary, the prince, who under the plea of clemency should neglect to punish evil doers, and to protect his peaceable subjects, might indeed be the favourite of the fraudulent and rapacious, but his conduct would be reprobated by all honest men.
But, as we are not capable of fully comprehending the plan of the divine government, let us turn our thoughts to another view of the subject.The Lord hath shewn that he is love, in his dealings with sinful men, by his patience and providential bounty. Could we possibly witness all the crimes of every description, with all their aggravations, which are perpetrated in London, or any other large city, during a single day; could we see the
malignity of every sin, and conceive of them all as committed against us, by persons on whom we had conferred the greatest favours; and did we possess the unrestrained power of executing vengeance; I am persuaded that our patience would be wearied out before evening. But the Lord at once sees all the sins committed in the whole world, together with the desperate wickedness of the human heart; he abhors, with unalterable and infinite hatred, every kind and degree of unholiness; he is able at any moment to punish sinners with irresistible vengeance; he could sustain no loss, if he destroyed all the workers of iniquity; and he might do it consistently with most perfect justice. Yet he bears with the rebellions of mankind from age to age; he endures the provocations of guilty lands, during the course of revolving centuries, while their presumptuous ingratitude continually increases; he prolongs the lives of individuals to fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty years, while they defy his justice, ridicule his works and word, or persecute to death his inoffensive worshippers! This is a very affecting illustration of the subject, and a convincing proof that GOD IS LOVE. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not "consumed:" and, besides the value of a reprieve to a condemned criminal, several of us are under unspeakable obligations to the long-suffering of our God; as he spared us during many years, when we lived in unrepented sin, that he might at length make us partakers of his great salvation.
But, as if exemption from deserved misery were a small matter, the Lord confers on sinful men an exuberance of temporal comforts and benefits.
From year to year he fills the earth with his riches: summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, do not fail: things most necessary to the life of man are most plentifully bestowed; but the revolving seasons bring us a constant succession of valuable productions, to regale us with an agreeable variety of indulgence: and, though we too commonly abuse this bounty to the dishonour of the Giver, every sense is liberally gratified with its proper object. The Lord holdeth our souls in life: his arm protects us, and his providence watches over us; while perhaps we proudly refuse to supplicate his favour, or ungratefully neglect to acknowledge his mercy. He defends us from sickness, or heals our infirmities: he corrects with gentleness, and seems in haste to relieve our distresses: he sometimes shews us the danger, that our deliverance may be the more affecting; but more frequently he spares us the alarm, though he knows this will render us less attentive to his kindness. In these, and various similar instances, "the Lord is loving "unto every man :" man:" "He maketh his sun to rise "on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain "on the just and on the unjust." "Oh that men "would therefore praise the Lord for his good
ness, and for his wonderful works to the children "of men!"
These are, however, subordinate proofs that GOD IS LOVE; and the apostle did not so much as stop to notice them, but with a beautiful abruptness hastened to select the grand illustration and demonstration of his doctrine: "In this "was manifested the love of God towards us, be"cause that God sent his only-begotten son into
"the world, that we might live through him. "Herein was love, not that we loved God, but that ❝he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propi"tiation for our sins." The Lord's purpose of pardoning sinners, and advancing them to a higher degree of glory and felicity than that from which they had fallen, is not considered as the grand proof that God is love; though the knowledge of him and of ourselves will convince us, that it is too vast for our capacities, and exceeds all computation: but the means of our recovery and reconciliation are represented as exhibiting a still more astonishing illustration of the subject. Could the blessings designed us have been honourably conferred by an act of sovereignty, without the intervention of a Mediator and an atoning sacrifice, as a prince pardons and then prefers a man who has been guilty of treason; the obligation would have been immense. But it appears that this was impossible, because the Lord "cannot deny himself," or act inconsistently with his own perfections. When, therefore, the honour of his law and justice seemed to place an insurmountable barrier to the exercise of pardoning mercy; when he could have glorified himself in the destruction of our rebellious race, and in creating worlds replenished with nobler inhabitants; that he should form and accomplish the plan of saving us by the incarnation and sufferings of his only-begotten Son was most stupendous mercy! that he should do this unsolicited by sinners; yea, while they continued to harden their hearts in daring rebellion against him! that he should both purpose the design of "reconciling "the world to himself" by the interposition of a