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The conclusion referred to, striking in itself, and also fundamental to all our subsequent inquiry, is simply this : That there is such an idea in the Bible as a Will of God perfectly distinct from the predestinating, or rather originating, resolves of the Divine mind; and that to this will not to those resolvesis assigned the dignity and the supreme interest of constituting the ground of man's reposing trust in his Lord, at whose absolute disposal he is. And, truly, we may well question whether a confidence of the future, founded simply on a prophetic knowledge of what is decreed, could be properly called a trust or confidence in God. Surely, in so far as those decrees were of evil to ourselves, or of things by us regarded as evil, it would be no confidence, but a fear: and even in the instance of things indifferent or desirable, the certainty of the decree would be easily separated, in our notion of things, from the character of the Sovereign. Not an illustration merely, but an example, of this very result we have before us, in the philosopher's confidence in the laws of the natural universe. He finds gravitation working by a certain rule here, and he reckons on its working by the same rule countless millions of leagues from hence. He sees a law of affinity executing itself to-day; and to-morrow, in his experiments, he perils his life on the certainty that this law perseveres in its force. He counts himself distinguished from the multitude nothing like so much by acquaintance with past facts and experiences, as by knowledge of permanent laws, and power therefore to anticipate future experiences; in one word, by a knowledge and a faith of the decrees of God, and a substance of things looked for resting on these decrees. And yet the Christian must be aware that there is no such miserable lying to one's-self, such poor half-conscious cheating of a man's own soul, as the self-congratulation and self-eulogy of the mere material philosopher ; who calls this study of the laws of nature a study of God; and would fain persuade himself that his travails in quest of the central force of the physical world are approaches, are even intended as approaches, to the living God. Is he raised above sense the more for them? Does he worship the more ? Does he sin the less ? Does he dread the more to take in vain the name of the Most High? Is there any one of the results in him of acquainting one's-self with Jehovah? And yet he is studying decrees; and yet he can prophesy, and that certainly and truly; and yet he can tell how it shall be with him, and with his neighbour
, and with the world, in pursuance to these fixed laws. Far be it from us to deny the greater elevation, the further reach, and the greater stability founded on that further reach, of those laws manifested in Revelation, and of those decrees (when we once know them) which stand in force in the spiritual and the future world. We cite the philosopher only as a proof that a study of God's predeterminate purposes may be far from a study of God as the east is from the west ; and that a confidence in God himself is high above a confidence in his decrees, as the beavens are above the earth. Decrees are but of determinate facts : the interpretation, the spiritual meaning of these facts, is a higher knowledge, the knowledge of the character of God. That character is evolving itself now, in creation and providence and revelation, and men seek it not, understand it not. What security is there for their seeking or understanding it, in a few leaves, plucked, as it were, from the great book of God's fixed intentions, whether relating to their own interests or to those of the world ; intentions, indeed, of further manifestation and development of himself; but still liable to be misinterpreted, and proportionally dangerous in the misinterpretation as they are more imposing and more comprehensive? One man believes the sun shall rise to-morrow, because its rising works as a law of nature, and is held to be decreed : another believes his salvation predetermined, because he thinks he has discovered the forerunning signs according to the law of God's operation. Either of them may be right, or may be wrong; but, so far as decrees are the ground of their confidence, they are quite alike in entertaining hopes which may be far remote from con. fidence in God.
In intercourse between man and man, we have frequent instances of the complete separation which may be in the minds of others, between confidence in a man's character-that is, the man himself—and in his intimated purposes. In countless cases it matters little, for our immediate object, what a man is, what he feels, and how he is disposed : let us but know what he intends to do, and we can shape our course and take our advantage accordingly, having no need for the inquiry whether his purposes arise from the benevolence or the vanity, from the ambition or the avarice, of his nature. But we all know that there is in man something wider and deeper than his plans and purposes, something from which they spring; that is, the heart, the moral character of man. Let us but know that a man is benevolent, and we can predict what circumstances affect him with complacency or with pain, and what will lead to the determination to relieve or to prevent. Now indications of moral character are mainly of two classes. We may learn a man's benevolence, for instance, by the pleasure which he manifests in the happiness of his neighbour. And surely it is no very hard thing to imaginé benevolence making itself most conspicuous in a world where no being capable of suffering and enjoyment around it, should be invaded by the minutest sting of evil, or want but a drop to the fulness of its cup of felicity; for then would benevolence meet with beams of rejoicing sympathy VOL. II.-_NO. III.
every eye that spoke inward blessedness; and then would it shew itself, in quiet resting on the unbroken gladness around, to need no other happiness than the knowledge that others are bappy. And even so might affection become a visible thing, and intelligibly expressed, even in a world where there should be no coldness, no separation, no jealousy, nothing that wounds affection; all union, perfect and undisturbed utterance of the answering heart of love-every thing in which affection finds its appropriate feast. In such a world, how would it rejoice, how would it repose, how would it expand itself, and lengthen the embrace of its tendrils, in air so calm, in so bright a sunshine! But, then, does not your heart tell you, that in such a world more than half the proofs and utterances of the loving soul would be needless, would be impossible ; more than half of all that makes us feel the height and depth, the length and breadth, of affection's energies? In such a world, were there no mother's watching over her sick child, or weeping over the dead. In such a world, no cement of reconciliation were known, binding friends more strongly than unbroken amity. There, no father would embrace his prodigal son. And you see that benevolence, too, could play but half the compass of her music, and make known but half her power, were there no wounded traveller into whose wounds the good Samaritan might pour his balm-in one word, no misery to weep over or to relieve. And what other moral attribute of man is there of which we might not in like manner shew that it is but very partially expressed, and that, therefore, whatever joy there is in the contemplation of its beauty can attain but little growth, when that attribute has not been seen grieved and opposed, as well as gratified ? Now, if God would truly make known to us, not his purpose only, but Himself; if we are to see what the Great Father's heart is, as well as his hand; will not the object be promoted if there be brought in contact with his attributes that which is against their desire and cannot meet with their complacency, as well as that which quite accords with them ? 'If God be holy, he must be pleased with holiness, and the smile of his pleasure reveals somewhat of the holy God : but should we not learn something more by seeing the same awful eye with that regard which it casts upon sin? If God be love, he must beam forth benignant joy when he looks upon blessedness, and stoops to share in union and communion with his children : but may we not feel a wish to know whether that love can survive rejection, how it can compassionate sorrow, whether it sends any earnest looks after the wanderer from its bosom? Nay, even the power of God is but partially exercised, if indeed its evidence can be understood, by the production of things only which he pronounces good, and the carrying them on unresistingly to the attainment of his own ends. Then does it unveil itself when there is a contending power, making it an experience that there is woe to him that striveth with his Maker. --Now, this apparent opposition to God for the manifestation of his attributes upon that which is contrary to them, is it a mere make-belief, a phantom of enmity; as chess-players set one hand against the other, while in truth defendant and opponent are the same? How plain is it, that, were this so, the end is defeated by the very nature of the nieans chosen for its attainment ? For, whatever be the character of the opposition, if it be truly caused by God, it is as much a proof of his character as that which he may personally do in resistance and rebuke of it.—But here we must apprehend the being encountered with an argument: If God be the Creator, retaining that absolute supremacy which creation implies, is not whatever is, his work? And, again, how can we conceive in the immutable God those feelings of disappointment which are manifestations of the weakness of passive and fallible man ? To the first question we answer: As long as God creates nothing but what is truly material and physical, so long whatever is, is the work of God; and for that, God, and God alone, is accountable. In a universe of mere matter, if there be any disorder, if there be any evil, there can be no blame any where, but on him who designed it and brought it forth. In a universe peopled by nothing higher than the brutes, if there be feeling of pain, if there be turpitude, quarelling, mutual destruction; then also we may say, these evil things exist because of an evil will in him who made them. But God has more mysterious powers; the Creator has higher resources than these. He can produce a being so stupendous, that even after it is created, even those who partake in it, shall doubt or deny the high attributes with which it is endowed ; a being participant of his own reason, and will, and moral power; a fit viceroy of the world ; worthy, if he discharge his part aright, to have dominion over all the works of God's hands; but if otherwise, fearfully solving the problem, how it is possible for evil to exist to which God may shew his contrariety, which has proceeded from another will than God's will, and is therefore no expression of what his good pleasure is. Thus, then, it becomes possible that the creation should
possess such evidence of the Creator's character as is derived from beholding it not only in direct and unresisted operation, but when reflected from all that is offensive to it, and at enmity with it. There is but one way of consistently denying that such is the truth, and that cuts off at once all that is truly moral in God and in man: it is, to assert that whatever is is according to the good pleasure of God; that nothing existing is really offensive to him; and, therefore, that in whatever instances he has opposed or counteracted any thing, undone any thing, threatened or inflicted any punishment-all has been but one game of action and re-action, both parts being played by the same invisible hand. And let those who will take this ground, take it firmly, and steadily maintain their position. Let them give up speaking of it as a distinction between either objects or acts, that some are pleasing in the sight of God and others hateful let them cease to describe the Law as a revelation of that which God would, and of the contrary which he would not; and fairly avow that it is at best an instrument for effecting one set of His purposes who gave it, while by other instruments he effects in other cases purposes of a character directly opposed. It is to be feared that few will avow that in all this length and breadth they hold the principle that nothing can be contrary to the will of God. We say feared; for were it once seen in this its naked horror, reason and conscience have yet power enough among men to scare and command away all but a few from adhering to such a cause. - But if we will not avow this, let us take a firm hold of a principle without which we cannot for a moment think as moral beings, or view God as possessed of moral attributes : let us acknowledge that in the world is very much directly contrary to what accords with the dispositions of God; and that which hates these things, which manifests itself in opposition to them, and produces and chooses and approves only the very reverse, is the Will or moral character of God, mentioned in Scripture as the only just ground of confidence towards him. Let us think it no very startling thing to be called to admit, that the same Being whose good pleasure it is that man should love his neighbour as himself, sees in murder or in malignity a thing contrary to his will
. And, this admission once made, let us not consider it as a sufficient objection to any thing stated as truth, that it takes this principle for granted. Doubtless there is a sense in which God is the Doer of all things; a sense so sublime and so important, that we need not wonder if some men, of highest and deepest thought, have pondered it in their minds till it swelled to a size leaving no room for truths on the other side. Whatever is done, even when that is committed which is in extremest contrariety to the will of God, still without God, still but by the power of God, it could not be done. When the murderer conceives malignity in his breast, He in whom he is living and moving and having his being is at that instant sustaining the capacities of affection, so turned to evil. When he plans the means of luring his victim to destruction, of accomplishing his death, of effecting for himself a safe retreat ; the understanding he uses is not only a gift once given by God, but at this