Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

him.” This passage, while it shows that the mediatorial dominion of Christ is of wider diameter than his church, proves that the exercise of all his mediatorial authority and sway, is subservient to the interests of his people. The entire bistory of divine providence an evidence of this special subserviency. The early history of the Jewish church shows how much the civil politics and the external condition of the nations of the earth were subservient to its protection and establishment. When the church has been in circumstances difficult, painful, and critical, providence in an unthought-of manner interposed to supply suitable means and proper instruments of deliverance -as in Egypt and Babylon, at the introduction of Christianity, and at the Reformation. The plots, and designs, and machinations of men and of nations, laid down with malicious craftiness, and nerved with wealth and power, have been, by a mediatorial providence, suddenly frustrated and destroyed. The dispositions of councils and states have been as rivers of water in the hand of providence, directed, or moderated, chastened, or over-ruled for the furtherance of the church of Christ. Some instances of particular providences in the lives and labors of individual members of the church supply the most decisive and interesting specimens of the manner in which the administration of the world is subordinate to the benefit of the church.

3. One marked design of the atonement of Christ is to magnify the law, and make it honorable. To this high design all the dispensations of providence are subservient. This is the end aimed at in the inflictions of Judgments on individual men and on communities, in the institution of sacrificial rites wbich have prevailed among all nations, in the miraculous revelations of the divine mind and will to prophets and other messengers, in the prompt and suitable answers that have been given to prayer, in the promulgation and ministrations of the gospel in the world, in the holy lives of renewed men, in the eternal punishment of incorrigible rebels, and in the glorious rewards of the heavenly state.

These considerations warrant the conclusion, that all things are made "for” Christ as Mediator, and “given" to his administration to subserve the ends of his government, and secure the purposes of his atonement.

SECTION IV.

The administration of the Atonement analagous to the

administration of Providence.

PALEY observes, in bis Natural Theology, that in all our widest and farthest researches into the productions of Creation, "we never get amongst such original, or totally different, modes of existence, as to indicate, that we are come into the province of a different Creator, or under the direction of a different will." Well had it been for the Christian church had such a thought suggested itself to our theological inquirers and polemical writers. It would have saved much controversy, heresy, persecution, and bloodshed. The analogy between providence and moral government Butler has established in a position upassailed and unassailable.

Many of the controversies which have agitated and unsettled the Christian church, have been conducted on the supposition, that in the works of redemption we come, so to speak, to the productions of a different God, other than the Lord of Providence and the Maker of the world. Human systems of theology seem to take this datum for their basis—but holy writ, sound reason, and daily experience shew that mankind are members of one immense system, pervaded by the same mind, regulated by the same will, and administered on the same general principles.

My present design is only to illustrate the analogy between the administration of the atonement and the dispensation of providence.

The providence of God has a universal aspect. His tender mercies are over all his works. He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth

[ocr errors]

up

rain on the just and the unjust. Such is the God of providence, and such also is the God of redemption. He has loved the world. He gave his Son to be a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. He willeth not that any should perish, but come to the knowledge of the truth, and he commands all men every where to repent. Here are words of equal dimensions. If you will apply some cramping and abridging process to the phrases about redemption, try the same experiment on providence, and the result will show that you serve a system, and not receive the truth. On the universal aspect of providence you have no system to serve, but on redemption you have to cut and square these unmeasured expressions to ready-made creeds. Think not in your hearts that the God who openeth his hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing, is different from the God who spared not his own Son, but delivered him for us all. Say not that the God who has provided so bountifully for our bodily and temporal wants, has been niggard and scanty in his supply for the soul that is to live for ever.

The measures of providence are liable to failure. A medicine may fail, notwithstanding the virtue which providence has given it. The crop of the husbandman may fail, notwithstanding the provision that seed time and harvest time shall continue. The morbid fear of acknowledging such a liableness to failure in the measure of providence, is unaccountable, when God declares his own government of the Jews, under the theocrasy, to have failed of its ends. "In vain have I smitten them, they have refused to receive correction," Jer. ii, 30. The word of God distinctly and expressly recognizes the same liableness to failure in the great measure of atonement. Are you sure that it is not attachment to system, rather than attachment to the truth, that makes you hesitate to avow this? The scriptures openly state that the atonement may become of none effect in some cases, as in Gal. v, 2, 5. The apostle Paul was afraid of the Galatians, lest he had bestowed

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

upon them labor in vain, i. e., lest the ministry of the atonement should fail of its ends. The same apostle pleads with the Corinthians in earnest entreaty, that they would not receive the grace of God in vain, which he must have supposed to be a possible case. The prophet Isaiah introduces the Messiah, the Lord Mediator himself, saying, "I have labored in vain, and spent my strength for nought." In perfect harmony with this prediction are the very words of the Redeemer himself. "How oft would I have gathered thy children, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not?" As I have here only to notice the analogy between the atonement and providence, no candid reader will suppose that this language implies an utter failure—it merely implies susceptibility of failure. The failure in either case does not dishonor God, the blame of it is entirely with the sinner--and the possibility of the case is quite consistent with the laws of trial in a free and moral government.

The character of any measures of divine providence is to be tried by the fitness and adaptation, and design of such reasures, and not at all by their final results. It is in this manner we always judge of an evil measure in the world. We judge of a dagger, a sword, a cannon, by its fitness and design. We judge of deceit, cunning, extortion and oppression, by their tendency and aim. Thus should we judge of providence. No wise man judges of a medicine by the death of a patient, of wealth by a miser, of learning by pedantry, or of liberty by anarchy. The deluge was a fit measure to clear the earth of evil doers, but you will not judge so by the final result. The final result does not prove that the selection of the family of Abraharn would preserve a people from idolatry and sin—nevertheless the measure

was adapted, and intended to do this. The miracles of Egypt and the wilderness were fitted and designed to bring the Israelites to obey God, and to trust him—but the result was otherwise. You do not judge of the ministry of Christ among the Jews by its final result, but by its tendency and design.

its tendency and design. Why then will you judge of the atonement by its final results? Why not judge of it by its adaptation and fitness? If the final result of any measure turn out to be the same with the ultimate end for which it was instituted and adapted, then the final result is a good criterion to test the design and tendency of a measure. Our present state of trial and probation is adapted, calculated, and designed to work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory—but the final results in countless instances will prove otherwise. Will you say then, that this state was fitted and intended to prove thus disastrous? You are not to judge of probation by, what it may be, or shall be in given instances, but by what it is now, by what it is fitted and intended to effect. Nor are you to judge of the atonement by what it may

and shall be in some instances, “the savor of death wto death,” but by what it is now—and what it is calculated and designed to be “the savor of life unto life” to all who will accept it.

General providence becomes available to particular cases, and thus becomes particular providence, by personal application only. So when a farmer takes into cultivation a piece of land from the common, no corn has ever grown before, he applies to his own individual case the broad offer and promise of general providence, that wherever there shall be a seed time, there shall be a harvest time. This general providence becomes as suitable and as effectual to him, as if it were made and intended for him personally, and for him only. He never thinks of consulting the secret decrees of heaven, to know whether such a plot of ground was eternally predestined to bear a crop. The general promise is quite enough for him. Thus he acts in the thousand affairs of life,-say in taking medicine, he never waits to unravel the private manuscripts of heaven for information; he merely ascertains the general fitness, adaptation and tendency of the remedy, and applies it to his individual case. Why will not men

on which

« ÖncekiDevam »