« PreviousContinue »
promises; these all, however, respect our situation in time, and in no case extend their reference to eternity. Salvation, through faith, takes place during the present existence of the believer. “ He that believeth on me HATH everlasting life.” (John iii. 36.) And damnation, through unbelief, takes place during the present existence of the unbeliever. - He that believeth not IS condemned already.” (John iii. 18.) The promises which respect man's condition beyond death are absolute—as already said, they rest on no contingents; they are called “exceeding great and precious.” (2 Pet. i. 4.) And the covenant containing them, as compared with the Jewish covenant of works, is called “a better covenant, founded upon better promises.” (Heb. viii. 6.) These are not conditional, for the promises of God through Christ are not “yea and nay;" they are not may
but “in him all the promises of God are yea, and in him amen, to the glory of God by us.” (2 Cor. i. 21.) “ Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah ; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” [The fault found with the old covenant, it seems from this text, was its conditionality, which rendered its blessings very insecure, having only the frail dependance of human faithfulness.] “ But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” [If it be considered a term in this promise, that the subjects are to have God's laws in their minds, is not God pledged to put them there? If they are required to be God's people, is he not bound by covenant to make them such? As, then, the conditions depend on God for fulfilment, they cannot ultimately fail in regard to any of the subjects, as is manifest from what follows:] “ And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, know the Lord, for ALL shall know me from the least unto the greatest, for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness; and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.' (Heb. viii. 8–12.) A promise could not be more absolute in its character, and of this
our opponents 'seem well aware; hence they seem anxious to limit its application to believers. 6. The house of Israel,” say they, “spiritually means the church.” And does " the house of Judah" also mean the church ? and was it the " fathers” of the church which “continued not in” God's covenant, and were therefore not “regarded ?" What trifling with the sacred oracles is this! And now, I beg to know, if God will unconditionally save the Jewish nation, will he not save all the nations on the same grounds ? or is he a respecter of nations ?
The very key-stone of the gospel arch seems to be the promise made by God to Abraham, that in his seed all mankind shall be blessed ; this is frequently adverted to in the new testament, in such terms as sufficiently show the great importance the inspired writers attached to it; Paul emphatically calls it the gospel, (Gal. iii. 8.) and Peter, with equal emphasis, calls it the promise, (Acts. ii. 39.) and the covenant made with the fathers, (ibid. iii. 25.) It is indeed a promise of promises : its manifest import is, that all nations, families, kindreds, to whom have extended the curse of sin and its concomitant moral death, shall experience a redemption therefrom, and be blessed with Christ Jesus their head. The revelation of this great truth is “glad tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people,” (Luke ii. 10.) It was the prime theme of preaching in the infancy of christianity, and it caused the hearts of those that heard it to bound with glad
To doubt the eventual fulfilment of this promise is to make God a liar, (1 John v. 10.) it is to refuse credence to the record which he giveth of his son, “and this is the record, that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his son,” (ibid.) hence he is said in the scripture to have given his son “to be the life of the world,” (viii. 24.) and Jesus calls himself “the bread of God which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.” (John vi. 33.) The primitive believers rested in hope of that eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began, (Titus ii. 2.) and this promise was not hypothetical, or conditional, but absolute, “ not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which were given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Tim. i. 9.) Could unconditionality be more strongly expressed ?
It may be objected, that this record is true only with regard to VOL. I.--F2
the believer ; but if so, how does the unbeliever by refusing credence to it make God a liar? for he only treats as false that which (according to the objection) actually is so as it respects himself! It is then a clear case that our belief or unbelief cannot affect the truth of the record; it was a verity from everlasting, and to everlasting it must remain a verity; and we are required to believe it, not to make it true, but because it is so; so soon as this record is believed, its reality is verified, hence the believer is said to have "passed from death unto life," (John. v. 24.) he hath everlasting life,” (ibid. iii. 36.) it was his before he realized it; the gift of God made it his, and the truth of God declared it his, and faith in the record at length brought him into possession of it.
But some will here inquire, Suppose the unbeliever should to all eternity treat the record as false, will he not in that case fail ever to experience its verity? The supposition implies a contradiction, for if by any means an individual shall fail to enjoy the blessing communicated in the gospel, it will prove as it respects that individual a falsehood, and if a falsehood, his unbelief in it can be no crime, but rather a virtue.
Some of the subjects of a certain wise and benevolent king, having been informed that he is a tyrant, rebel against his government, but being weak, and unable to resist his power, they are soon brought to experience that they lie entirely at his mercy; they are now filled with the most dreadful apprehensions; they imagine that he will execute his vengeance upon them in every horrid form; some he will burn alive, others he will break upor the wheel, &c. Poor creatures ! they have greatly mistaken the character of their king, for he has no such cruel intentions. On the contrary he resolves to subdue them by the force of love; to overcome their evil with his goodness; he accordingly writes an act of pardon in their behalf, and sets the royal signatnre to it, at the same time commissioning an ambassador to carry them the joyous intelligence. But suppose that some of them will refuse to credit the message, what then? Will he falsify his word ? will he prove himself vindictive because they in their blindness suppose him so ? That would be a strange method, surely, of vindicating his character and the truths of his message! Yet, thus acting, he would but imitate the
conduct which the doctrine of endless misery ascribes to the sovereign of the universe.
Or, to change the figure, a certain wealthy man, hearing that a poor debtor of his is in great distress, from an apprehension that his little all is about to be seized to satisfy the claim against him, sends a written assurance to his poor friend that he has forgiven him the whole debt, and professing in strong terms his kind dispositions towards him : the debtor, however, refuses to credit these benevolent assurances, as they disagree with the ideas he has received of his creditor's character : whereupon the other gets angry, prosecutes the debt, and in default of payment casts the poor man into prison. Does not the conduct of the creditor in this case justify the poor man's unbelief in his kind professions ? It undeniably does ; it proves that the other would have been unsafe in relying upon any promises of his.
To apply these cases. Will God act cruelly because we think him cruel? Will his truth become a falsehood because we treat it as such ? Will he belie his own record, by eternally damning those to whom he hath given eternal life? And will he do this because we foolishly refuse credence to that record ? A most sagacious method of vindicating its verity, unquestionably.
Thus we have seen that every attribute of Jehovah yields conclusions, the most clear and undoubted, in favour of the eventual salvation of all mankind. How could a suspicion to the contrary be entertained for a single moment? seeing that God is one and undivided, and all the perfections of his nature are in harmony with each other. His justice is as much opposed to the endless reign of injustice as is his holiness to the ceaseless duration of sin, or his love to the eternal continuance of hatred, or his mercy to that of cruelty ; his goodness to that of evil, and his truth to that of error. It is in the nature of things for these infinite attributes to overcome their opposites; the latter being finite, and not allowed even a present existence for their own sake ; but with reference to some ultimate good to be brought about by their means. How ought we to rejoice and take courage from the fact, that our heavenly father's character is pledged for our final good! And how valuable ought we to esteem that revelation of himself to the world through Jesus Christ, by means of which we arrive at this glorious assurance ! What a soothing and
peaceful influence does this assurance breathe through the soul ! Amid the darkness and dreariness of life, its language is,
“yet bear up awhile,
THOUGHTS ON THE LAW OF GOD.
This subject is so apt to be introduced in controversies of this nature, that I have thought proper to consider it at some length, and to assign it a distinct place in this investigation : especially as the opponents of universalism, when compelled by arguments from the attributes of God to abandon the hope of finding countenance to their theory in that quarter, are prone to have recourse to his law, and to make it responsible for the severity of the sinner's doom, as if the law could exist independently of the legislator! “God, to be sure," say they, “ is infinitely good, and no wise disposed in and of himself to inflict upon his creatures so horrible a punishment, but his law imperiously requires such a satisfaction upon its violators, and except its demands are met to the full, the order and harmony of the divine government cannot be maintained.” Never did a bad cause resort to a weaker fallacy. “Is there a fate above the Gods ?" Or, to christianize the question, is there a law in the government of Jehovah which he himself cannot control ? and in contrariety to his purpose and pleasure will the destinies of millions of millions be fixed by this uncontrollable power in irreversible perdition? Then indeed is the creator to be pitied : since none more than he will deplore—and unavailingly deplore—the ruin brought upon his creatures by this relentless law! Yet, even in this view of the case, he is not wholly exonerated from blame for having created beings in view of this result; and him, therefore, after all, and not his law, must they hold as primarily responsible for their miseries.
Theological system-builders tell us that the law of God is infinite. Why? Because it is God's law. All things are God's. Are all things therefore infinite? If so, they are equal to one