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moment continues to exist and act only because God continues to actuate it. When he wills the stroke, when he raises his arm, when the weapon of death descends into the heart of his victim; it is not enough to say that God at that moment upholds the bodily life and strength of the murderer; that by him he breathes, by him he moves; that by him his arm is nerved; nay, that by him the dead metal of his
; dagger is furnished, and continues in being only by a continued act of creative might: the very will of the mur. derer himself is also more than a gift once given by God; by God it is at the moment given, for by the act of God alone could it also continue to subsist. Is any thing, then, , in the whole process the murderer's own? for, unless there be, in the whole process God cannot be opposed, for he is himself the sole agent. That is the murderer's own, and his exclusively, in which the moral character, the evil, of the act resides. God enables him to think, but it is himself that thinks: God sustains his faculty of will, his electing power; but it is himself that wills, that chooses evil. The question is not, whether all being in all times and places has for its foundation the being and the will of God; whether all power, however operating, be not at every instant a product of the living power of God. Nor is the question, whether, since in every act there is an act of God, he has not foreseen all acts, predetermined their measure and their issue, and the harmonizing of all into a vast scheme of righteous government. The question is about the compass of the scale of created powers, what is their highest pote? The question is, whether this all-upholding energy of the All-originator does any where uphold a power not like the others, a passive, undeviating effluence of his own power; but, on the contrary, capable of turning itself against him ; of being and doing the very contrary of what God would be or do, or would have done. We affirm, that every revelalation God has made has been addressed to such a power, designed for its illumination and right direction ; that but for philosophy and vain deceit, men would have seen its existence implied in all that God has commanded or forbidden; and that but for its existence it would be unreasonable to speak of the existence of moral and spiritual evil as any thing less than a proof that God is indifferent to good, and that in his being is no fixed basis of moral character.
But we anticipated another difficulty, closely connected with the former. It may be asked, not unreasonably, not only how any thing in creation can be represented as other than the Creator's work, and therefore according to his will; but also, whether the being affected by the creation in the manner we have described—the feeling the works of other beings to be evil, to be otherwise than he would do not imply a passiveness, a disappointment, a susceptibility of emotion, altogether alien to the immutable God, by whom and from whom are all changes, all movements; being himself above all movement, and all change? Now, so true is it that this part of the Divine character is in itself by us incomprehensible, that every thing else in God is in itself to us equally incomprehensible, and for the same reasons. Strange is it, perhaps, to speak of moral affections sometimes gratified, sometimes grieved, as existing in the Immovable, the Creator and Sovereign Disposer of all which these affections can contemplate. But is it a whit less strange, or incongruous with all the strongest associations of our nature's experience, to speak of action, successive, varied, and progressive; action, the most changeful of all changes in an active being, as in Him who cannot change? But are not creation, providence, and redemption, actions? Is not his action all that we definitely know of God? But while we cannot admit that an incomprehensibility, rising from seeming inconsistence with that in the Divine Being which is most utterly incomprehensible, is any sufficient refutation of the doctrine we have stated concerning the will of God; it is frankly admitted, or rather earnestly asserted and pressed upon our readers, that this reaching of our subject into pathless infinitude constitutes a grand difficulty in rendering the doctrine matter of fixed and practical belief-so great a difficulty, that we need not fear to say, to move this stumbling-block from the path of his rational offspring towards spiritual well-being, internal harmony, and harmony with himself, was a main end of God's manifesting himself in flesh. This glorious mystery has been degraded, by those who understand the difficult.y but not God's victory over it, into his employing some judicious and commodious figures of speech, and, so to speak, figures of action. They tell us, that when God speaks of his love, his justice, he means merely something unrevealable in him which works similar effects with love and with justice in man. The answer is, in one word, we believe in a God-Man. Plato, Socrates, confessed a God : we a
, a confess Immanuel, and his Father-such a God as no man sees, understands, knows, saving inasmuch, as he sees, knows, and understands the Man Christ Jesus. It might well beseem, comparatively with us, some Jew under the Mosaic system and its perplexing darkness, to say that he knew God had made the world and all its host; and therefore found it hard to believe that he was in earnest in testifying by his law that all unholiness is against his will, and in uttering by his prophets the voice of his own discontentment and anger and grief over the nation's neglect of his desire and command, so honestly meant, so awfully issued. The Jew might be excused for suspecting that
these were figures of speech, meant to keep up a salutary delusion. But, oh! was Jesus born a weak infant ? Were Egypt and Nazareth the witnesses of budding and blossoming human faculties in him? Did he ever weep over embittered Jerusalem ? Did he utter the desire of a human heart, when he cried “Father, forgive them ?" Did he die of very love; love felt in all the stirrings that it awakens in the breast of a tender-hearted man? But what, then, it may be asked, Was God a weakling infant ? did God weep human tears, or groan, or give up the ghost ? If disposed to give a short answer, in a free uncritical spirit, and in language familiar and constant with the sages of the early church, we would say simply, Yes; for Christ is God. But if we must endeavour to answer the precise according to their precision, we say, The Godhead was not born, laboured not, died not, rose not : humanity did all this, but His humanity who is no less God than man : humanity did all this, but for the express purpose of revealing the God within ; even as light cannot make known to us its presence but by the denser, and to us more congenial, air. The humanity of Christ is that which translates the ineffable language of the Most High into man's native tongue. But it is much more ; for “he that hath seen Him bath seen the Father;” not as another, but as one with Him. The light of Godhead is reflected from him; but that is also the light of Godhead which is refracted through him.-Now, what was it of Godhead that was shewn in Christ? Was it almighty power? We have only to put you in mind of his own words, “ He that believeth.... greater works than these shall he do.” What was most prominent in the distinction between the Man who was God, and revealed God, and all other men ? It was his moral character : it was love to God with all his heart, and to his neighbour as himself, with no peculiar selection, unless we take as such the emphasis with which he applies the law to the case of those that curse and hate and persecute us. Now, if the foremost distinction of his own character was its moral distinction, then either was that same moral character the thing most prominently to be manifested in God, or he failed utterly in his attempt to shew by humanity the God within ; and it avails us nothing that he said, “ He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Now, morality in this human form, this human conformity to the law of love, we can feel, we can understand ; and we are relieved from the harasment of ambiguous figures of speech, by knowing it to be no figure, but a great fact, that a Man is one with the Father. For, in truth, the shrewd objection, that love, and anger, and all the affections attributed to God in Scripture, are human emotions, implying agitation and passiveness, is a mere confusion of spiritual principles with things that accompany their working in our lower
nature. With love in us there is passive emotion, with indignation there is passive emotion : but the love, the indignation, are not themselves the emotion, but states of that higher nature in which we approach to God. Just as some ingenious men have hoped to solve the mysteries of the material universe by searching for certain substances as being the same with light and heat and gravitation : whereas, were these bodies found, this matter called light would need something to make it shine; the matter called heat, a principle in it to make it warm; and that called gravitation, a principle by which it might gravitate : and all plain men would tell the philosopher it was these principles they meant by the names, and not the new-discovered substances: So in our human emotions these theologists fancy that they have found the essence of our moral principles; which moral principles, as sure as the Bible is true, as sure as God was incarnate, are common to God and man; and, in us, by these emotions only denote their presence, as the substance by its shadow- Having already referred to the Law as expressing something that God would (that is, according to the will of God, in that sense in which John uses the word), namely, that man should be holy; while nothing is more certain than that the fact is contrary to this will, we have only to beseech those who see that this is true, and see that to deny it is to subvert all foundations of morality in revelation, that they would calmly and candidly ask themselves, Whether this principle may not extend somewhat further than the case of the Law ? whether the whole of God's revelation may not be designed to shew a moral character in God-a love, justice, holiness, and truth-as utterly and resolutely at variance with the generally existing state of things in the world of human beings, as much opposed and disappointed and aggrieved by it, as the holiness expressed in the law is with the existing sinfulness of man?
Thus, then, we see of what the Apostle speaks when he mentions a will of God, in circumstances when a fixed purpose cannot possibly be meant: it is the disposition of God; it is that so truly and uniformly aggrieved by every thing evil, that we may safely define evil to be all that is against it, and good to be that which alone accords with it. Now this, according to his statement, is the confidence of the Christian. This is truly a confidence in God himself; in what he is, not in what he purposes. And if it be
; true that the character of God is such as forms for those who know it a ground for their reliance, then the answer of the hope is as certain as the being of God, and in any individual mind the assurance of the hope is according to the firmness of conviction with which it holds a true knowledge of God. That is,
They that know Thy name shall put their trust in thee;" or, in the phrase of the Apostle, They that know “ His Will" shall
discover how it harmonizes with their own best interests, and shall know that they have all the petitions which, in accordance with it, they ask of him. Faith, indeed, is not trust; it is believing: but faith is the ground or source of trust. It is because of what I know, with belief, of the past working of a friend's character, that I can confide to his honesty and to his benevolence my fortune or my life. Faith belongs to present truth; trust to future contingencies. But such is the present truth regarding God, that the faith of it, the evidence of things not seen, becomes the substance, the realizing enjoyment, of things hoped for, making them contingencies no longer. Now we know well, the best test of professed faith in a man, is a call to exercise trust in him. We know, that the merchant who should commend the honesty or solvency of one who sought a loan, would be considered as declining to give the best proof of his sincerity if he refused to commit his own money into his hands. The application of this test to the concerns of the soul is just that doctrine misnamed the assurance of faith. The doctrine referred to does by no means say to a man, The being assured that you shall be sanctified and saved secures its being so: it says,
you profess to know the name of God, see to it that your knowledge leads you to put your trust in him, or you yet know him not. What is plainer, than that if a man say God is holy, and yet say it nothing displeases him that such or such a sin be committed an hour hence, that man deceives himself with words? Now let him put the test. Believing in the holy name of God, can he believe, can he pray, in faith, in sure confidence, that God will forfend the perpetration of the dreaded crime? Now to apply this more widely. God has not more plainly declared that sin is contrary to the will of his justice, than that the ruin of sinners is contrary to the will of his love: he has sworn the great oath by His own Name, that in the death of the sinner he hath no pleasure; that he wills that all should come to know the truth and be saved. Every argument that has ever been used against taking these words in their honest meaning, whether shaped according to the doctrine of election or in some less systematic form, is just as reasonable, as reverent, as decent, as if men should say, "The Law can never mean what some foolish people suppose; it can never mean that God would have holiness and would not have sin: the fact is, sin exists, and shall exist, and this proves what the mind of God is.” For, may we not take every syllable of this wicked mockery of God's revelation of his own holiness, which would rob us with hollow sophistry of a God that hateth iniquity, and, by applying them as objections to the doctrine of universal good-will towards man and universal reconciliation, present the whole force of the technical argumentation that