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leasing him from the ties of mortality: every unrelenting and cruel Jew was but the messenger of mercy to his soul, and every falling stone was but a summons to eternal glory. Such a man had no sense of injury, and therefore he had no wrongs to retaliate; his enemies were dismissing his happy spirit from this world of sorrow; and they were doing it at the expense of their own souls. They were therefore the only objects of commiseration, they were the persons who needed compassion, and they were therefore blessed with the expiring intercession of Stephen, whose blood they had mingled with the dust of the ground. And Stephen's intercession was as philosophical as it was Christian, as compatible with reason, as it was with religious feeling it was worthy the last moments of a Christian, and it became the dying feelings of the person who was the first to follow in the steps of Him who, under similar circumstances, had said, “ Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
That God is able to bring about any event, and every event, which he may think proper for the punishment of the wicked and the delivery of the righteous, and for the general purposes of his government, without infringing on the liberty of any human being, is what every person must allow who believes in the contents of sacred history: and every man who allows that God is able to bring about such events without any infringement on the liberty of human actions, needs no other key to unlock the mysteries of providence, or the mysteries of prophecy : such a key, under the steady evolutions of common sense and unsophisticated reason, will pass every ward in the lock of prophecy, will travel through all the labyrinth of its hidden mysteries, drive back every bolt of human ignorance, human sophistry, and superstition; and will throw wide open the door of revelation to the wondering eyes of the enlightened world. What is the design of prophecy, but to demonstrate the efficiency of the Divine government, and to shew that, in the distribution of rewards and punishments, “ He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth : that none can stay his hand, or say, What doest thou ?” Dan. iv. 35.
That God is able to do whatever he may think right and proper in the distribution of rewards and punishments, must
be intuitively evident: but it would not follow from thence that he is able to bring about any event which he may desire to accomplish, of whatever description that event may be ; because, if the Almighty had the same power in the moral world that he has in the natural world, then would he himself be the only responsible being in existence; nor could he righteously blame any other being for the failure of any of his purposes.
That every thing in the moral world is not exactly as the Lord would have it, must be abundantly evident, if it be allowed that he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, nor in any immoral action whatever : and that he is not able to accomplish in the moral world every thing which he himself actually desires to accomplish, is equally demonstrable, Hence our blessed Lord, in his passionate lamentation over Jerusalem, said, “ How often would I have gathered thy children together.” Matt. xxiii. 37. Now if these words imply a will unaccompanied with the agency of God, or a desire of gathering them together, which did not enlist the entire energy of the Divine omnipotence in its service, then this memorable scripture must have been the language of chicanery and deceit, and not the expression of the Divine integrity. If any means were left untried which might have infallibly secured the salvation of that city, there could not have been either sincerity or truth in the lamentation and the tears of the Redeemer of mankind. “ But ye would not.pt And the obstinacy of the human heart is always an insuperable barrier to the gracious purposes of God. Witness the strife between Pharaoh and Jehovah: the Lord left no means untried to soften the heart of that wicked and incorrigible king, and to prevail upon him to let the children of Israel go: but Pharaoh's obstinacy triumphed over all; and triumphed to his own destruction. Witness the ancient Israelites, who, like Pharaoh, tempted him ten successive times, and like him triumphed over all the Divine forbearance, and that to their own perdition. as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. Because those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers.” Numb. xiv. 21--23. And the
- As truly
very same kind of language is used concerning Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Ex. xiv. 15.
To say that God cannot consistently save an impenitent sinner, without his free consent, is only blinking the ques
Leaving consistency and inconsistency entirely out of the inquiry, I would ask if it be possible to bring any sinner to repentence and salvation without his free consent? To say that God desires to save a sinner, and would save such a sinner, and yet does not actually save him, when he has power to do so, there is no hypothetical consistency, which, in such a case, could redeem the moral character of the Deity. How can it be reconciled with the justice, much less with the mercy of God, to leave any man to perish whom he could possibly and certainly redeem? or to leave any means untried in the employment of which the Deity could anticipate with certainty the final salvation of such an offender? Does not the Lord appeal to the people of Judah, “ What could have been done more for
vine. yard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes ?” Isa. v. 4.
I know I shall be reminded of, “ And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell : for if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” Matt. xi. 23. But to this I have only to reply, that it must be a very miserable system of theology that would require a literal interpretation of the most impassioned hyperbole, to keep it tottering on its legs. We might with just as much propriety persist in a literal interpretation of the following Scriptures : “ If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee.” Matt. xviii. 9. “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” Luke xix. 40. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matt. xix. 24. These are all hyperboles, which very naturally express the impassioned feelings of our blessed Lord; but to understand them by any literal interpretation would be to outrage the sober meaning of the word of God. People make no scruple in saying, that the goodness of God is ineffectual in the case of an incorrigible sinner; and why should they be more tenacious of the credit of the Divine
power, than of the character of the Divine benevolence? Is not the character of God involved as much in the exercise of the one as it is in the exercise of the other? And why should people be more tenacious of the character of the Divine knowledge, than they are of the character of his justice or his mercy? What! does the Deity know by what means he could bring every sinner to repentance and salvation ? and is his ability fully adequate to accomplish such an undertaking ? and can he suffer any sinner to perish, and be blameless? The doctrine of a universal and certain prescience, in relation to moral actions, is not more truly the parent of the theory of an unconditional and eternal predestination, than is the doctrine of a universal and infallible agency in relation to moral actions, the parent of universal restoration and an unlimited Jibertinism in moral speculation. Only let a person add the notion of an infinite goodness to his monstrous notion of an infinite infallibility in the moral government of the moral world, and then he may boldly lay the flattering unction to his soul; and while wallowing in the licentiousness of his unbridled passions, he may sing,
• The wintry storms of time will quickly pass ;
And one unbounded spring encircle all.”
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