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we should speak of fallen angels as the creatures of God, and leave the reader to suppose that he made them what they now are, without taking in the consideration of their wilful apostaey; something very plausible might be adduced, either against the dealings of God with them, or against the scriptural doctrine concerning them. If it would not have been consistent with all the divine perfections to have left the whole of the fallen human race without a Redeemer, or “the means of escaping? " the wrath to come,” then, it must be repeated, and steadily maintained as undeniable, that the whole plan of redemption, and all its component parts, concerning which the sacred writers speak almost in rapturous language, of “the praise of the glory of God's grace," of " love that passeth “ knowledge,” “ of the riches of his glory, &c.” was in fact nothing more than a provision due to us, which could not have been honourably withheld; a kind of honourable amends for the terror occasioned to us. “The ministration of condem“ nation is glorious :" though the “ ministration “ of righteousness,” and “ of the Spirit," “ exceeds “ in glory.” If this had not been so, there would indeed in our case be no display of pardoning mercy and saving grace, any more than there is in the Lord's dispensations towards fallen angels : and, had he not, either in the case of fallen man, or in some other instance, displayed this glorious and endearing attribute ; it might have been supposed that the perfection of his justice and holiness excluded the possibility of shewing mercy to rebels and enemies. This is then the grand display of the divine glory in the gospel, “a just God and a Saviour :” but this glory implies, that he might consistently have withheld what now, “ to the “ praise of the glory of his grace,” he imparts ; or he might have selected other objects for the display of his glorious mercy and grace; and have glorified his justice in punishing men, according to their deservings.''
• If any inconsistency with these perfections appears in any proposed system, we need not hesitate to pronounce the system false and groundless.'2
The appearance of inconsistency with the divine perfections, in respect of any doctrine deduced from the sacred scriptures, may be, and commonly is, owing to our partial or prejudiced minds, or our scanty information, or our mistaken notions. Nothing indeed can be true, as to the divine appointments, which is really inconsistent with-the moral perfections of God: but almost every part of revealed truth appears to numbers inconsistent with them; one part to this description of men, and another to that description. “ The preaching of the cross is foolishness to them “ that perish.” Some argue against the history of the creation, and the fall of man; others against the dealings of God with the Egyptians, Canaanites, and Amalekites; others contend in like manner against the future and eternal punishment of the wicked; others against the mystery of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the atonement,
Arbitrary, see Book I. chap. ii. sect. 18. On the gift of God irrespective: also chap. i. sect. 4. On the case of the Gentiles.
. Ref. 259.
regeneration, justification by faith, and salvation by grace; but all under the supposition, that the doctrine or dispensation against which they contend, appears inconsistent with the divine perfections, or with some of them. But is this reasoning conclusive: Man is a child, an ignorant, erring creature; he mistakes appearances for realities in every thing. Man is a sinner, a party concerned, under the dominion of self-love; and, as a criminal, must, in self-vindication, be tempted to think that the dreadful sentence of the Judge appears too rigorous, or even unjust. Who is there among us that has lived many years in the world, and not seen through the delusive appearances which once imposed on him? We have all, no doubt, still our prejudices undiscovered by us ; for if we once discovered them they would cease to be our prejudices. The appeal then is and must be, “To “ the law and to the testimony:" he who refuses to believe the express and plain testimony of God, because to his partial and purblind reason it appears inconsistent with some divine perfection, believes in his own reasonings, and not in the word of God; and refuses to believe God, if his own understanding will not vouch for the truth of what he says. And the less he 'hesitates to pro- . ‘nounce the doctrine or system,' which he cannot prove to be unscriptural, groundless or false, the less of the humility and docility of a little child is manifested.
· The known attributes of God, collectively taken, as they are declared in scripture, and man‘ifested in the works of creation, can alone guide us to truth, in our disquisitions concerning his
designs in the formation of man; and the exclusive consideration of a single attribute has been 'the common source of difference of opinion
among the learned upon this interesting subject. • Divines seem to argue concerning the Deity, • from what they observe to take place among
It is indeed true that we too often see those, whose lot it is to govern their fellow creatures, exercise their power in utter contenipt of ' every principle of justice and mercy: others we
see studious only to act according to the rigid ' rules of justice, without attending to the calls of
merey: a few we may see yielding to the mo“mentary impulse of compassion without regard‘ing the claims of justice: and even the wisest • and most conscientious of men are frequently at ' a loss to devise the means of acting in strict conformity both to the essential laws of justice, and to the milder dietates of merey. All this necessarily belongs to the nature of a frail and imperfect being: but the Deity, whose ways are not as men's ways, is entirely free
from every defect and limitation of this kind. · With Him there is no opposition, no clashing, ‘no difficulty. His dispensations are the result
of the concurrent operation of his perfect attri'butes.''
The attributes of God, however made known, are not exclusively, or even principally, our guides in these disquisitions : for his express declarations must mainly be attended to, concerning what he has done, and what he will do ; and concerning the motives and objects of his decrees and dispensations. “ The Lord made all things for himself;
'Ref. 260, 261.
yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”l_“That “ in the ages to come, he might shew the ex
ceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness to“ wards us through Jesus Christ.”—“ To the “ intent, that now unto the principalities and
powers, in heavenly places might be known, by “ the church, the manifold wisdom of God; ac“cording to the eternal purpose, which he
purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—The historical part of scripture, as far as the divine conduct is concerned, illustrates the information given concerning the perfections of God; and the doctrinal and preceptive part of the sacred oracles gives us instruction concerning a variety of particulars, in which we should otherwise have remained ignorant, or have been bewildered in
“ The law entered that the offence might “ abound; but where sin abounded grace did “ much more abound.” 3 We should scarcely have discovered this end, which God proposed in giving the law, by abstract reasonings on his moral perfections. The whole of the reasoning in these pages is highly objectionable. The way in which doctrines are to be deduced and established, according to it, seems to be this. We are set to speculate on what we should suppose would naturally and necessarily follow from certain acknowledged attributes of God, and thence to frame our doctrinal opinions, instead of submitting to be taught them by the direct and “sure
testimony of God” himself. • It is evident that, in carrying on the examination, (of the substance of the message, and then, from what we I Prov. xvi. 4. * Eph. ii. 7. iii. 10, 11. * Rom. v. 20.