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tices, turn to God on my death-bed. You will allow, we hope, that the bare probability of our having occasioned so dangerous a wound, ought to engage us to attempt to heal it, by contrasting to day the goodness of God with his severity.

The text we have chosen is the language of St. Paul, Our God is a consuming fire; and, it is worthy of observation, we have scrupulously imitated the apostle's example in making this subject immediately succeed that which we explained last Lord's day. The gospel of last Lord's day was a passage in Isaiah, God will abundantly pardon, for his thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways his ways; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts, ch. lv. 7. The gospel of this day is, Our God is a consuming fire. St. Paul hath made a similar arrangement, and him we have imitated. In the verses which precede our text he hath described, in a very magnificent manner, the goodness of God in the dispensation of the gospel. He hath exalted the condition of a christian, not only above that of the heathens, who knew the mercy of God only by natural reason, but even above that of the Jews, who knew it by revelation, but from whom it was partly hidden under vails of severity and rigour. Ye are not come, said he, unto the mount that be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which voice they that heard, intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more. But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel, ver. 18, &c. But what consequences hath the apostle drawn from all these truths? Are they consequences of security and indifference, such as some christians draw from them, such as some of you, it may be, drew from the prophet's doctrine last Lord's day? No; they are consequences of vigilance and fear: See that ye refuse not him that speaketh: for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him


that speaketh from heaven; for our God is a consuming fire, ver. 25.

Our God is a consuming fire. These words are metaphorical; they include even a double metaphor. God is here represented under the emblem of fire, agreeably to what the psalmist saith, Shall thy wrath burn like fire? Psal. lxxxix. 46. There is no difficulty in this first metaphor. But the second, which representeth the conduct of God towards impenitent sinners as wrath, vengeance, anger, is very difficult, and requires a particular explication. In order to which we will attempt three things.

I. We will endeavour to harmonize our text with other parallel passages, and to give you distinct ideas of that which is called in God wrath, anger, vengeance, and which occasioned our apostle to say God is a consuming fire.

II. We will prove that this attribute agrees to God in the sense that we shall have given.

III. We will endeavour to reconcile the doctrine we preach to day with that which we preached last Lord's day; the justice of God with his goodness; and by this mean to engage you to love and adore God as much when he threateneth as when he promiseth, as much when he presents his justice as when he displays his mercy. This is the whole plan of this discourse,

I. We will endeavour to give you distinct notions of that which the scripture calls the wrath, the anger, the vengeance of God.

Recollect a remark, which we have often made, that is, that when the scripture speaks of the perfections and opera tions of God it borroweth images from the affections and actions of men. Things that cannot be known to us by themselves can be understood only by analogy, as it is called, that is, by the resemblance they bear to other things, with which we are better acquainted. Divine things are of this kind.

From this remark follows a precaution, which is necessary for the avoiding of error whenever we meet with an emblem of this kind descriptive of God in the holy scriptures; that is, that we must carefully lay aside every part of the emblem, that agreeth only to men from whom it is borrowed, and apply only that part to the Deity which is compatible with the eminence of his perfections.

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Sometimes the part that ought to be laid aside is so ob vious that it is impossible to mistake it. For example, When the scripture attributeth to God hands, or feet, sorrow, or tears, or jealousy, it is very easy, methinks, to separate from emblems of this sort all that can only agree with the natures of frail, or with the conditions of sinful men.


But sometimes it is not quite so easy. The difficulty may proceed from several causes, of all which I shall mention but one at present, and to that I entreat your attention. Some men have false notions of grandeur, and none are more likely to entertain such notions than those divines, who have breathed only the air of the study, and trodden only the dust of the schools. Such divines, having never sweetened their manners by a social intercourse with rational people in the world, have often contracted in that of life, a sour, morose disposition, and their tempers have tinged their ideas of grandeur and glory. I am greatly inclined to believe that some ideas, which several school-men have formed of the liberty and independence of God, have arisen from this disposition. Divines, who had sweetened their manners by associating with rational people in the world, would have attributed to God a noble and magnanimous use of his liberty and independence. They would have said, God is free and independent, then he will always do justly and equitably; then he will require of mankind only that which bears a proportion to the talents he hath given them, then misery will be the consequence of nothing but vice, and felicity will always follow virtue. If the scriptures sometimes represent God by emblems, which seem opposite to these notions, sensible men would have considered, that one part of them ought to have been cautiously separated from the other, because it was incompatible with the eminence of the perfections of God. But these school-divines have attributed to God such a conduct as their own savage tempers would have observed, had they been vested with divine power. To each of them the prophet's reproach may be very properly applied, These things hast thou done, and thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself, Psal. 1. 21. They said, God is free, therefore he may appoint men, who have done neither good nor evil, to eternal flames. God is free, therefore he may create men on purpose that they may sin, and that he may display his wrath in their punishment.

II. Here

II. Here let us stop, and let us keep to the subject in hand, by observing that those emblems of wrath and vengeance, under which God is represented to us, have one part that cannot be attributed to him, because it is not compatible with the eminence of his perfections, and another, that must be applied to him because it is.

1. It is a consequence of the frailty or of the depravity of men, that their anger inclines them to hate those whom they ought to love, and in whose happiness they ought to interest themselves, as far as they can without violating the laws of equity. Such a hatred cannot be attributed to God; he loves all his intelligent creatures, and when we are told that the Lord hateth a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, Prov. vi. 17. when he is represented as refusing some real blessings to mankind, as hardening their hearts, Exod. iv. 21. as sending them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie, 2 Thess. ii. 11. All these descriptions mean that he dislikes sin, and all those who commit it; that it is not always consistent with the eminence of his perfections to work miracles for their conversion; and that it is not fit to reform by a physical power, which would destroy the nature of vice and virtue, men who refuse to be reformed by a moral power, which is suited to intelligent beings.

2. It is a consequence of human frailty or depravity, that men's wrath makes them taste a barbarous pleasure in tormenting those who are the objects of it, and in feasting as it were on their miseries. This is incompatible with the eminence of the perfections of God. When he saith to impenitent sinners, I will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh, Prov. i. 26. when he saith, dh, I will ease me of mine adversaries, Isa. i. 24. when Moses saith to the Jews, It shall come to pass, that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought, Deut. xxviii. 63. all the meaning of passages of this kind is, that the wisdom of God approveth the judgments which his justice inflicts; that the punishments of sinners cannot affect his happiness; and that when he hath not been glorified in their conversion, he will be glorified in their destruction.

3. It is a consequence of the frailty or of the depravity of men, that their anger disorders their bodies, and impairs their minds. See, the eyes sparkle, the mouth foams, the animal spirits are in a flame; these obscure the faculties of


the mind, and prevent the weighing of those reasons that plead for the guilty offender; anger pre-judgeth him, and in spite of many powerful pleas in his favour, his ruin is resolved. All these are incompatible with the eminence of the perfections of God. God is a spirit, John. iv. 24. he is not subject to revolutions of sense; reasons of punishing a sinner never divert his attention from motives of pardoning the man, or of moderating his pain. When, therefore, God is represented as shaking the earth, and moving the foundations of the hills, because he is wroth; when we read, that there went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth, Psal. xviii. 7, 8. when he, who is called the word of God, is described as treading the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of almighty God, Rev. xix. 13, 15. we understand no more than that God knoweth how to proportion the punishment to the sin, and that he will inflict the most rigorous penalties on the most atrocious crimes.

4. It is a consequence of the frailty and depravity of men that their anger makes them usurp a right which belongs to God. An individual who avengeth himself, assumes the place of that God who hath said, vengeance is mine, Rom. xii. 19. at least, he assumes the place of the magistrate, to whom God hath committed the sword for the preventing of these disorders, which would subvert society, if each were judge in his own cause. This is incompatible with the emi-nence of the divine perfections. God useth his own right when he punisheth sin, agreeably to the doctrine of St. Paul, Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. What is this wrath, to which we are required to give place? It is the anger of God. Avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath; that is, be not hasty in revenging injuries, your self-love may magnify them, and the punishment which you inflict may exceed the offence; leave vengeance to God, who knoweth how to weigh the injuries you have received in an impartial scale, and to inflict such punishments on the gnilty as their crimes deserve.

5. It is a consequence of the frailty and depravity of men, that time doth not abate their resentment, and that the only reason which prevents the rendering of evil for evil, is a want of opportunity; as soon as an opportunity offers they eagerly embrace it. This is incompatible with the eminence of the perfections of God; he hath at all times the means of punish

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