« PreviousContinue »
hands. Recourse may commonly be had to earthly tribunals, which are more impartial: and if evil doers escape punishment from men, except they repent, there is no way for them to escape the righteous judgment of God. Sooner or later, all who commit iniquity, will be made to know that it is an evil and bitter thing. Instead therefore of wishing to do men any evil, whatever they may have done to us; we ought rather to pray for them, that by experiencing only the necessary bitterness of repentance, they may escape the more terrible pains of eternal punishment.
4. We should make it our chief care and concern, while we judge and condemn others, that we ourselves do not fall under the righteous judgment of God. Let all be warned to flee from the wrath to come; and not to flatter themselves that they shall have peace, though they walk in the way of their hearts, and in the sight of their eyes. If the Bible be true, all such hopes are certainly vain. "For,"
it is written, "the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. Now, therefore, be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong." Let sinners be exhorted, as the only way of safety, to flee for refuge, and lay hold upon the hope set before us in the gospel. To repent, in this only space of repentance, and pray to God for pardoning mercy, through the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, which cleanseth from all sin. "Seek ye
the Lord, while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near."
ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD.
JOB XXIII. 13.
But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.
IN this chapter, Job expresses his grief and
vexation of spirit, in a very moving and pathetic man
See ver. 2, "Even to-day is my complaint bitter my stroke is heavier than my groaning." And if we duly consider all the circumstances of his unhappy situation at this time, we shall not wonder that he was ready to sink in despondency, or that the patientest man should be brought at last thus bitterlyto complain. For, under his complicated strokes of adversity, from the immediate hand of God, or from the permitted malignant agency of the grand adversary -under the sudden loss of all his substance, and of all his children, and the most distressing bodily pains, from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet; he not only had no one on earth to console him, but not one, it seems, but what was against him, and ready to add to his affliction. His wife appeared rather to upbraid and insult him; saying, "Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and His three greatest and best friends, who came
from afar on this melancholy occasion, on purpose to condole with him; though wise and good men, yet from a common mistake concerning the ways of Providence, they proved, as he calls them, miserable comforters. Supposing that men were always dealt with in this world, very much according to their moral characters, they concluded that Job must have been an extremely wicked man, notwithstanding his former reputation for piety and virtue, or he would not have been visited with such singular divine judg ments. And hence they exerted all their powers of argumentation and rhetoric, to bring him to a confession of gross hypocrisy.
Now, in such a state of complicated troubles, when all other sources of consolation were shut up, how natural and necessary is it for a good man to refer his cause to God, and seek help and support from him? But even this last resource of a suffering saint, seems now to have been denied to Job: for he says, ver. 3 and 4, "Oh, that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments." And ver. 8, 9, "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him." Job wanted to reason with God, one would suppose from these complaints, not being able to comprehend the goodness, or perhaps the righteousness, of these his present strange dispensations.
In this view of the foregoing words, our text may be considered as Job's recollection of himself, and calling to mind the folly of expostulating with the Most High, respecting what he had done, or of thinking to alter his purposes in regard to what he was about to do. "But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth."
The meaning of the words is plain and easy to be understood: namely, that God is unalterable in his determinations. That he never changes his counsels; and that no one can move him to alter his mind in any instance. That what he once designs, he always does, let what arguments or entreaties will be used, to persuade him to the contrary.
And as the meaning of Job is very obvious, so the sentiment he here expresses is very evidently true. For,
1. Such unchangeableness is often ascribed to God, and claimed by him, in the holy scriptures. See Psal. xxxiii. 11, "The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations." Isa. xlvi. 9, 10, "I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me ; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." Mal. iii. 6, "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." And James i. 17, "Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
2. Such immutability in God, may certainly be concluded from his other perfections-his infinite power, knowledge, and goodness.
To be fickle and given to change, is ever considered as an imperfection in a man; surely then nothing like this ought to be supposed in the all-perfect God. The wisest and most steady men do indeed often alter their minds; and it is often wise and necessary for them to do so. They cannot always foresee how things will turn out, or what incidents may happen. Objections to their plans, unthought of at
first, frequently arise in the prosecution of them, or occur to their thoughts on more mature consideration. Men are sometimes obliged to desist from their designs because of the opposition they meet with from some, or the failure of others on whom they depended for help. They are sometimes induced to alter their purposes by convincing arguments suggested to them; and sometimes, when not convinced it is best, are overcome by the earnest entreaty of friends, whom they cannot bear to disoblige. But to a Being who is infinite in power and knowledge, and in every moral perfection, no such causes of alteration are possible. "Known unto God are all his works," and every thought relative to them, "from the beginning of the world." No new consideration can occur, or be suggested to him, as a reason for changing his mind; nor will he ever be over-persuaded to alter any purpose of his heart without reason; and none can stay his hand.
Thus indisputably evident is it, both from particu. lar texts of scripture, and from the other revealed attributes of God, that he is in one mind, and none can turn him. Nevertheless, there are objections against this doctrine, or apparent difficulties relating to it, which deserve some attention,
1. Several texts will readily occur, which appear to assert the contrary. We are told, Gen. vi. 6, "It repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart," It is said concerning his people, Psal. cvi. 44, 45, "He regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry: and he remembered for them his covenant, and repented, according to the multitude of his mercies." And in Jer. xviii. 7, 8, God says, "At what instant I shall speak con-cerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it: If that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their