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duct toward our fellow man, which will promote his best inters asts, and afford to us peace and joy on reflection
In this manner I might proceed, in shewing that the statutes of the Lord are adapted to our necessities, and salutary in their effects: but in regard to those which have been mentioned; their rectitude and utility are questioned; perhaps, by none. There âre, however, some others, the propriety of which is not so obvious: against which objections have been made; and objections of such magnitude as are thought sufficient to set aside, as impostüre, the whole of divine revelation. When the Jews hesitated to receive the doctrine of Christ, because, as they supposed, he was destitute of human learning, he said, “ My doctrine is not mine, but his who sent me:" and added; " If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." So I would say, if the statutes which have been exhibited, and others of a similar character which might be mentioned, be right and salutary, let them be faithfully observed, and this will pave the way for the reception of those which are more obscure. Men are induced to reject the revelation of God, not because its requirements do not cona tribute to the best interests of mankind, but because of the selfdenial, watchfulness; and holiness which it requires, and the sentence of condemnation which it pronounces upon the disobe: dient. Depravity, and not the want of evidence, is the source of infidelity. If this were not the case, men would obey those státutes which they judged to be right; wherever found, and the multitude found in the holy scriptures, which are acknowledged to be just and salutary; would induce the belief, that He who had given so many statutes adapted to the condition of man, had not departed from his usual character of wisdom and benevolence in some others, the propriety of which may not be, to all, equally manifest. The impartial and candid, would attribute the obscurity which, in their view, rested on some parts of revelation, to their weakness or prejudices, rather than to any want of rectitude in the statutes or the Lawgiver. Those parts of revelation which announce the providences of God toward nations and individuals, will frequently appear to men strange, and inconsistent with the general benevolence of Deity, because they are not able to see the several parts of the great plan which he is executing. The objections felt, arise from the limited capacities and knowledge of men; not from the want of wisdom or goodness in the plan, or in the manner of its execution. Joseph, at the tiine he was sold into Egypt, was the most amiable and promising of all the sons of Jacob. Who, on seeing him reduced to a state of hopeless slavery, by the hands of his wicked brethren, does not stand aghast, and exclaim, How can the righteous Ruler of the üniverse, suffer the wicked to prevail in this manner, against the
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righteous? And still further, when Joseph fell under the displeasure of Potiphar, his master, and was cast into prison, not for any crime, or act of indiscretion, but for the most illustrious virtue; how prone are short sighted mortals, to say, surely there is no God in heaven, who minds the affairs of men! But the termination of this portion of sacred history affords ample proof, that God knows the end from the beginning, and is able to make the wrath of man to praise him, and to restrain the remainder thereof. The history of the Bible is a history of Providence: and this portion of it proves, that circumstances apparently the most adverse, may lead to an end the most prosperous and desirable. The objections made to some parts of divine revelation, are manifestly unreasonable and irreverent: yet there are men who venture to make them, and their effects upon the multitude are exceedingly pernicious. Of these objections, the following will serve as a specimen. 1. “In the Bible we meet with contradictory declarations, sufficiently manifest to impair the credibility of the whole work. In Num. 23:19, it is said, God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent. In Gen. 6:6, it is declared, that it repented the Lord that he had made man upon the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And in 1 Sam. 15:11, God is made to say, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be King: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. Again, it is said, Mal. 3:6, I am the Lord, I change not. And generally unchangeableness is ascribed to God: but in Isa. 38:1, he declared to Hezekiah, then confined to his bed, Thou shalt die and not live,' and shortly after, by the same prophet, Behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. Thus both repentance and mutability are ascribed to God.”
For the removal of these and all similar objections, it will be sufficient to observe, that human languages are adapted to the wants of man; and when applied to Deity, are necessarily figurative, and a very imperfect vehicle of thought. Among men, the hands are the instruments of action: and the volume of inspiration ascribes to God, who is a Spirit, and without bodily parts, hands, as the instruments by which he exerts his power. After the same manner, feet, eyes, ears, &C., are ascribed to God, though we cannot suppose that they belong to a Being who is purely spiritual. Now if we ascribe to Deity, the organs of perception and the instruments of action which belong to man, it is not surprising that we should attribute to him human passions, when his actions resemble those of men, who are influenced by such emotions. God created the world and all things that are therein, as we learn from the first chapter of the book of Genesis: afterward he determined to bring a flood of waters to destroy man and beast. When men act in this way, they are said to repent;
i and we use the same term in speaking of God in men it is al ways accompanied with remorse and self-reproach, in God it signifies no more than an action similar to those of men, when they repent. Therefore, to object to the Bible because it ascribes repentance to God, is as unreasonable as it would be to object to the ascription of bodily parts to him, or to the use of human language. A revelation could be of no use, rather I would say, it would be no revelation, if it were not given in a language which men could understand: all languages adapted to the use of men, must be feeble in expressing the nature of God and things divine, and when thus employed, must be understood with limitations. Again, that God is unchangeable, is a doctrine often and plainly taught in the word of God: nor does the case of Hezekiah form any exception. This prince being confined to his bed by a disease which in its nature was mortal, and which, without supernatural aid, would certainly terminate in death: the prophet was sent to announce to him his condition and his duty; * Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live.” The effect of this message was salutary: Hezekiah wept sore, and prayed, and the same prophet was sent to say to him, that the Lord had heard his prayer, and had added fifteen years to his life. Now we are assured, that “ Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world;" this addition of fifteen years to the life of Hezekiah, in answer to his earnest prayer the mortal disease with which he had been seized, and the prophet's first message, which brought him to feel his dependence, and the second message which filled him with gratitude and joy, all were known to God from the beginning, and were parts of the same benevolent and gracious plan. We behold the works of God in parts, as they successively present themselves to our view, and to us, these parts seem to heve belonged to different plans, and to argue mutability in the divine purposes; but this is owing to our weakness, for with God they are all harmonious, and such as he at first designed. A vessel, on leaving this country for Europe, may steer a southerly or a northerly course, in the hope of meeting, at a certain latitude; with a wind which
will carry her directly to the destined port, without subjecting the į master to the charge of changing his design: so God may
threaten the life of his servant by a mortal disease announce by his prophet the natural tendency of his malady, and thereby bring him to a due sense of his frailty he may heal the disease, and add fifteen years to the life of his servant, without subjecting himself to the charge of mutability.
2. Another objection is founded upon the order which God gave to the Israelites, to exterminate the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, Deut. 20:16,17. “But of the cities of these people which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: but thou shalt utterly de stroy them; namely, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizites, and the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.” This is thought to be so contrary to humanity and justice, and so contrary to the known benevolence of Deity, that it is difficult to suppose that it proceeded from him who made of one blood all nations of men, and is no respecter of persons. There is nothing in the whole system of revealed truth, against which ungodly men feel stronger objections, than the exercise of God's sovereignty. The first sin proceeded from a desire to be as gods, knowing good and evil: and every subsequent transgression is an impious attempt to ex. tricate ourselves from the yoke of our Maker. The command given to the Israelites, to exterminate the inhabitants of Canaan, proceeded from the Sovereign of the universe, “ Who does hig pleasure in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say to him, what doest thou?" The Canaanites were wholly given up to idolatry, as is manifest from every part of their history: and had yielded them. selves to the practice of uncleanness in its most detestable forms. Had the righteous Judge of all the earth swept them away with a flood, as he did the inhabitants of the old world, all would have acknowledged that he was righteous. : Had he consumed them with fire and brimstone, as he did the wicked Sodomites, none would have charged him with injustice. The difficulty arises from the circumstance, that the Israelites were commanded to execute God's vengeance upon them. Here we must remember, that the whole creation, animate and inanimate; constitutes God's host: upon whatever part thereof he chooses, he may call, and duty requires that part to obey. When he contended with Pharaoh, he commissioned the waters of the Nile to afflict his king. dom, by becoming blood. He called for flies, frogs, and locusts, and they obeyed his call, and engaged in war against his enemies. So when he engaged in war against these Canaanites, he sent hornets among them: he attacked them with hail stones from heaven: the stars in their courses fought against Sisėra. Now the children of Israel received the command from God, to exterminate this devoted people, and were bound to obey by the strongest obligations. Some will probably allege, that the cuss tom of shedding human blood would be likely to harden their hearts, and deprive them of those feelings of humanity, and compassion for the sufferings of our fellow creatures, which constitute the glory of our nature. On which I remark, that such is the depravity of the human heart, that we pervert even the forbearance and goodness of God to the increase of our iniquity; ánd doubtless 'bad men among the Israelites, were made worse by these scenes of blood. But when they remembered that God, the righteous Governor of the world, had commanded it because of the great wickedness of the people; would it not tend to impress them with a deep sense of the great evil of sin, and the tremendous judgments which, sooner or later, overtake the ungod
ly? In this view it would prove a salutary lesson to those who 24 were concerned in it: and to the surrounding nations, as instruco tive as the deluge, or the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Thus it appears that it accords with the perfections of Deity, and is liable to no valid objection.
3. It is further objected, that a future judgment, such as the I scriptures teach us to expect; and a state of rewards and punishI ments, in the world to come, are highly improbable. Mr. Collins, in an infidel writer of the last century, asserts, “ that it is greatly ) improbable that God should especially interpose to acquaint the ' world with what mankind would do altogether as well without."
The scripture declaration, That God hath appointed a day, in 3 which he will judge the world in righteousness, is one of those
statutes, of the rectitude of which, in the present state, we are very incompetent judges. That inan who assumes the prerogative of determining, in opposition to revelation, or without its aid, what God will, or will not do, comes to his conclusion, without the knowledge of the premises from which it is drawn. God, who is the Creator and Governor of this, and all other worlds,
may have reasons for the appointment of a day of judgment, of e which we are totally ignorant. The displays of his moral per
fections, particularly his justice, love, and mercy, among us, have been astonishingly great, and have excited the adoring wonder of the holy angels. Who then can affirm, that the knowledge of these facts will be of no use to intelligent creatures of other worlds? The apostle asserts, (Eph. 3:10,) that the gospel was preached to Jews and Gentiles, “ To the intent that unto princi. palities and powers in heavenly places, might be known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God." There is good reason to believe, that the day of judgment will so fully disclose the righteousness of God, and the loveliness of his moral character, that it will afford intense and lasting delight to all holy beings, and overwhelm with confusion, shame, and remorse, those who have re. belled against him. The advantages which the day of judgment shall afford to the intelligent universe, are to us, in this dark world, in a measure conjectural: but when we are told that the angels desire to look into the mysteries of redemption, the conjecture is more than probable, that the revelation of God's righteous judgments, will edify and delight them. Solomon tells us that all things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous and the wicked: to the good, and to the clean, and to the
unclean." And that, “ No man knoweth either love or hatred, * by all that is before them." The reason of this state of things is