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124 HIS HOLINESS.
ry to Isaiah in the temple, the seraphims were heard by the prophet to cry one unto another, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory?" Isa. vi, 1—3. And of some of those celestial beings who surround the throne of God in heaven, we read in the Apocalypse, that "they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come:" Rev. iv, 8. Frequently is the Supreme Being described as "the Holy One of Israel." He is in this point of view exalted far above all creatures. "There is none holy as the Lord:" I Sam. ii, 2. "The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works:" Ps. cxlv, 17. Nor is there any one of the divine attributes which more loudly demands the blessings ,and praises of the saints. "Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness:" Ps. xxx, 4. "Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord;.... bring an offering and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!" I Chron. xvi, 10. 29. God is described as holy, partly because he is a sacred Being—the only proper object of divine honour, reverence, and worship; but, more especially, because his nature is absolutely pure, and, because, in him there dwells the perfection of all moral excellence. That this is a true definition of the holiness of God, we learn from the divine precept addressed to ourselves: "Be ye holy, for I am holy," I Pet. i, 16; and also from the recorded character of that law, which is given to us for the regulation of our own conduct, and which is ever described as emanating from God himself. "The law is holy," says the apostle, "and the commandment holy, and just, and good:"
HE PERMITS THE EXISTENCE OF SIN; 125
Rom. vii, 12. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple: the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes: the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever!" Ps. xix, 7—9.
Absolutely pure as is the Supreme Being, and infinitely glorious in the perfection of those moral qualities which his own law prescribes, it is a fact which admits of no doubt or denial, that in some of the creatures of God, moral evil exists and abounds. When we remember the omnipotence of Jehovah— when we call to mind that "from him, and through him, and unto him, are all things"—we may with reverence acknowledge, that this fact presents to our narrow and inadequate understandings, a mystery which we are utterly incapable of penetrating or explaining. The ways of an infinite God are indeed unsearchable; and all that we can safely say on the subject is this— that moral evil is permitted to exist, for some wise, though to us incomprehensible, purpose; and that all things will unquestionably be found, in the end, to have been working together for the glory of God, and for the welfare of them that fear him. But, no sooner do we take a single step farther; no sooner do we entertain the idea that God, in the common sense of the expressions, is the author of iniquity— that he actually appoints it as a means of greater good —that he not only permits it, but approves it—that he attaches misery to it, not because it deserves to be punished, but because the suffering, as well as the sin, is one link in the chain, which is always to end in the good and happiness of the sinner—no sooner do these
126 YET ABHORS IT, AND PUNISHES
preposterous doctrines obtain a place in our minds, than we involve ourselves in the most dangerous of all practical errors. Then is our standard of right and wrong destroyed; and while it is impossible for us, with any colour of justice, any longer to assert that God is holy, we naturally sink down into the conclusion, that virtue and vice are matters of indifference, and, in fact, exist only in imagination.
Happily, however, the Scriptures afford the clearest contradiction to all such fatal delusions. In those sacred writings, sin is ever represented as essentially evil; unalterably offensive and abominable in the sight of God; separating those over whom it has dominion from his presence and favour; and exposing them to the righteous indignation of the Holy One, not only during the present life, but in the eternal world to come. God is of "purer eyes than to behold evil:" Hab. i, 13. "The Lord is far from the wicked:" Prov. xv, 29. "Behold," said Isaiah to a nation of transgressors, "the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear:" Isa. lix, 1, 2. "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink, which justify the wicked for a reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so IT TEMPORALLY AND ETERNALLY. 127
their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust, because they have cast away the Law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel!" Isa. v, 20—24. "All that do unrighteously are an abomination unto the Lord thy God:" Deut. xxv, 16. "The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord:" Prov. xv, 9. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die:" Ezek. xviii, 4. "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience:" Eph. v, 5, 6. "Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile:" Rom. ii, 8, 9. "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God:" Ps. ix, 17.
Under the patriarchal and legal dispensations, many signal instances were given of temporal calamity as a punishment for sin. In the deluge from the destructive violence of which, eight persons alone, from among all the inhabitants of the earth, were saved; in the utter ruin of Sodom and Gomorrah; in the extirpation of the Canaanitish idolatrous nations by the sword of Israel; in the captivity and sore afflictions of the Jews themselves—God displayed the unequivocal marks of the holiness of his nature—of his absolute abhorrence of all sin. But, how much more fearfully will the same divine attribute be manifested in that awful day, when the wrath of an offended Deity shall be finally poured on the ungodly—when the vision of the apostle shall be fulfilled—when all
impenitent transgressors "shall be cast into the lake of fire!" Rev. xx, 15.
If there be any thing which can heighten the view thus afforded us of the dreadful offensiveness of sin in the sight of God, it is yet another truth revealed in the Scriptures—that God yielded up his only-begotten Son, who dwells in his bosom and participates in his godhead, and sent even him into the world, to suffer in our suffering nature, and to atone for our transgressions, on the cross, that " God might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus:" Rom. iii, 26.
II. The word Just in this passage appears to include the idea of the inherent righteousness of God; and, truly, the method which he has appointed for our justification through the blood of Christ, clearly displays his righteousness; because, while it is the channel of his unmerited mercy to the sinner, it sets the stamp of the most astonishing of all events, on the eternal malignity of sin in his holy sight. The justice of God, however, in the more restricted meaning of the words, is manifested in the punishment of iniquity, and in the remuneration of moral excellence—in the fact so often declared in Scripture, that pain and misery are the ultimate and inevitable consequences of vice, and happiness the sure result of obedience and virtue. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door:" Gen. iv, 7. "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it.shall be ill with him; for the reward of his hands shall be given him:" Isa. iii, 10, 11. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh. shall of