« AnteriorContinuar »
of God. His rational creatures were endowed with moral goodness. As revelation is meant for man, a very particular account is given of his original rectitude. He was created “ after the
image of God, in his likeness ;" that is, “ in righteousness and true holiness h."
To his rational creatures he also gave a perfect law. Man was subjected to a positive precept. But we are by no means to suppose that the law was confined to this. The moral law was written on his heart by the finger of God: and this, as to the subftance of it, is the transcript of infinite holiness. In every respect, it is holy, just and good. It was so, even in its covenant-form. It is so, as a rule of life to believers. Although they are in no respect justified before God by their obedience to this law; yet, fuch is his holiness, that he requires that they should be “ perfect as “ their Father in heaven is perfect," and still press forward toward this perfection.
That law of ceremonies which God gave his ancient people, contains a striking representation of his holiness. Whence did God enjoin so many washings and purifications ? Had they, or could they have, any virtue in themselves? Often did he asfiire them of the contrary. But by the observation of these, according to the imperfect nature of the dispensation, he would still remind them of his infinite hatred of fin. Did the touch of a dead body communicate ceremonial defilement ? Thus the Supreme Lawgiver taught, in the most lively manner, the contaminating nature of all the actions of a natural man, and the necessity of being “ purged from dead works, that we may “ serve the living God.” Why were there so many persons, places and things, consecrated by him, as partaking of an external holiness? Can mere outward rites render a man well-pleasing to God? Can any place be in itself more sacred than another, to him who is LORD of the whole earth? Can irrational or inanimate creatures be the subjects of true holiness ? Nothing of this kind was ever meant. But it was the will of God, by these shadows and sensible representations, daily to inculcate on a gross and obdurate people the necessity of purity of heart, of being really devoted to the Lord, of being holy in all manner of conversation.
lively Gen, i. 26.; Eph. iv. 24.
In a great variety of instances, the holiness of God is practically demonstrated by the operations of his justice. 1. Deeply to impress the mind of man with the majesty of divine justice, seems to have been one special design of the Spirit of inspiration, especially in the writings of the Old Testament. This appears as the most prominent feature in the history given us of the covenant made with Adam. We have scarcely had time to contemplate and admire the goodness of God in the formation of man, and in the ample provision made for his sustenance and comfort; ere we are made to tremble at the appearance of a more awful perfection. A promise this covenant undoubtedly contained; but it lay hid in that terrific threatening, “ In the day thou eat
est,-dying thou shalt die i.” How foon is the voice of blessing succeeded by that of the curse! The one would almost seem to be uttered, only to give tenfold energy to the other. The effect of the blessing, pronounced on the earth, has barely appeared, ere we are aroused by that alarming denunciation, ever since verified in the experience of guilty man; “ Cursed is the ground for thy “ fakek." When God had created “ an help “ meet” for man, he blessed them both, saying, “ Be fruitful and multiply.” When he pays them another visit, this very increase, which originally flowed from the blessing, is converted into a curse; “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow, and thy
conception !.” How quickly is the threatening changed into a fatal sentence actually pronounced; “ Unto dust shalt thou return!!” No sooner is it pronounced, than it is partly executed; “ So “ he drove out the man,” drove him out of that delightful garden, which had been created for his use, and in which he had been placed but a short time before.
We advance but a fingle step further in the history of mankind, when we are arrested by anoiher display of divine justice. The first man, born of woman, receives from the Supreme Judge a folemn warning as to the necessary connexion between fin and punishment. To Cain he
said, i Gen. ii. 17. k Chap. i. 24. ; iii. 17. I Chap. i. 28.; ii. 16.
said, “ If thou dost not well, sin lieth at the doorm, that is, it lieth like a beast of prey, ready to devour; certain punishment awaits thee. And no sooner had he tranfgressed, than his fin laid hold of him, in its necessary consequence. Formerly the earth was cursed for man's fake. But here the curse seems to expand, and to acquire an increase of force, with the increase of human guilt : “ Now
art thou cursed from the earth.” Man was driven out of paradise before. In this first-born of man, the curse is so forcibly excmplified, that he speaks of himself as an outcast from creation : “ Behold thou hast driven me out this day from “ the face of the earth." In this language, however, he only expresses the more remarkable execution of the curse, primarily executed on his parents. For he thus explains it; “ From thy “ face shall I be hid, and I Mall be a fugitive and “ a vagabond on the earth.”
The history of about sixteen hundred years is next condensed in a few lines. Here, although the life of man was at its greatest extent, the narrative is most abridged, as if the Spirit of infpiration would teach us, that the present life, even at its utmost stretch, is but a shadow; and that the longeft period, when past, seems to the mind, equally with the shortest, as a tale that hath been told. We are hurried down the stream of time, through eight succeflive generations, and are allowed no pause, till we find ourselves encompasfed with the waters of destruction. On this awa
m Gen. iv. 7.
n Chap. iii. 17. ; iv. 17.
o Chap. iii. 24.; iv. 14.
ful display of justice, the sacred historian dwells much longer than on all the events which took place during fixteen centuries before ; as long as on the whole history of man after that of his creation. Such a display of divine justice was this, that in God's conduct towards mere man, there never was, and we are assured there never will be, any thing equal to it, while time endures. It therefore claims our particular attention.
That this event might incontestably appear the effect of punitive justice, full warning was given. It was preceded by a denunciation of the vengeance purposed ; while at the same time an opportunity was given for repentance, during the ministry of Noah, and the exercise of divine longsuffering, for an hundred and twenty years.
When this period was elapsed, God would no longer strive with man by his word and Spirit. He proceeded to strive with him in another way, by the threatened judgment. Then all nature conspired against the impenitent rebel. God “call“ ed to the heavens from above, and to the earth, “ that he might judge his people,” by executing vengeance, in a most signal manner, on their enemies, according to the threatening previously denounced.
The destruction was such as cannot be accounted for on natural principles. It was immediately the work of God. Every thing that takes place, in respect of fupreme agency, proceeds from him. But he afferts his claim to this work as of an ex