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(1 Pet. i. 12,) I shall be seen of them; (1 Tim. iii. 16;) and they shall behold the spoiling of the principalities and powers of the kingdom of darkness; for I will make a show of them openly;* (Col. ii. 15;) and demonstrate to the universe that frail and feeble human nature, as it is the work of God, can sustain every trial their utmost malice can invent, triumphing over them in it.
Thus in a nature weak as ours,
And made a full display;
And every foe dismay.
Into this wonder angels pry’d,
As was our God's intent,
Lord God Omnipotent.
* All the scriptural quotations just inserted will be very particularly commented on hereafter.
ET us next consider on what rational principle so guilty and polluted a creature as man can hope to be received to the favour of an infinitely pure and perfect God. To assist our inquiry on this subject, we will suppose an earthly potentate sole governor of this world, possessed of a creative power, which he had employed by forming various orders of intelligent beings, assigning to each class different situations and occupations on the globe, of which he was proprietor ;—that one of these classes, who had been placed in a distant colony of his empire, endued with a knowledge of his will, and stimulated by the hope, if they acted agreeably to that knowledge, of being advanced to some more elevated station in his dominions, had, so far from having fulfilled the part allotted to them, wilfully and presumptuously persisted in conduct directly opposite to their Maker's dictates; had made but feeble or no attempts to divest themselves of those frailties which had been permitted to attach to their nature, for the purpose of constituting a state of trial; had, instead of refusing to listen to the
wicked persuasives of an artful seducer, fallen an easy prey to his artifices, and become the perpetrators of most enormous crimes. Under such circumstances, how should we conceive a wise and good sovereign would probably act towards such perverse creatures, consistent with his own honour, and the happiness of his other subjects; his estimation having been lessened in the view, or within the knowledge, of an innumerable number of them, by their behaviour: for how impotent and unjust a being must he appear-impotent to have been the former of a nature that seemed utterly incapable of obeying his commands; and unjust in requiring obedience, if he knew it was unable to perform it. It therefore became necessary for his sullied reputation to be cleared, before he could pardon the offending parties. This, his benevolent regard for all his creatures made him earnestly desirous of doing. His pity was moved by considering the many difficulties which they were destined to encounter, though these tests of their virtue were appointed with the kind design of preparing them for the enjoyment of great felicity. Frequent messengers had been sent to instruct and admonish them, but their directions and reproofs they almost entirely disregarded. He, notwithstanding, felt a most compassionate concern for the unhappy situation in which they were involved, and which obliged him, in justice to himself, and the welfare of his other subjects, to testify his high displeasure at their conduct; to threaten them, if their miscon
duct continued, with forfeiture of all the gracious promises he had tendered ; and to warn them of the dread fate which ultimately awaited them total exclusion from his favour, and everlasting banishment from his presence. This impending ruin they appeared in imminent danger of incurring, for their hearts were become callous, and almost insensible to amiable affections; and the very recollection of those virtuous precepts that had been originally imparted to them seemed nearly lost amidst the prevalence of vice and evil example.
Now, we cannot reasonably suppose that a most merciful being, who felt a parent's affection for his people, would pass his final sentence on them, without having previous recourse to every expedient hitherto left untried for endeavouring to reclaim them from such a state of depravity and danger; without sending them the fullest and most express declaration of his will, and kind intentions respecting them. And he looked, but there was none to help; and he wondered that there was none to uphold ; therefore his own arm brought salvation unto him. (Isa. Ixiii. 5.) For he was blest with a beloved son, with whom he lived in perfect love, whose sentiments were one; this son, well knowing his father's wishes, being zealous for his honour, and benevolently bent upon endeavouring to restore this culpable race unto his favour, did himself consent to undertake the difficult and hazardous attempt of trying to effect their reformation. For this purpose he made an embassage unto them, enshrined
himself in their nature,* and in that illustrated a perfect pattern of every virtue ; exposed himself to the most cruel treatment from those very persons whose happiness he kindly came to seek; taught them how to act in every circumstance to which their situation could possibly expose them; and yielded up his life as a testimonial of the importance and truth of his mission. This compassionate visit being terminated, and the son reinstated in his father's kingdom,+ may we not suppose him offering some such address as the following—Behold, O my father, thy beloved son returned triumphant to thy blissful presence, invested in this glorious trophy, the offending nature restored to perfection; which spoils of this my victory, I now present as an offering unto thee. Accept it at my hands, for it has completely glorified thee by its spotless virtue; vanquished every enemy that would have seduced it from its allegiance to thee; and the renown of its achievements has reached the most distant realms of thy empire. Hear its intercessions, I entreat thee, for
absent friends, in whose pure and kindred nature I now implore thee to receive
* We cannot now depart from the present object of resea
search, to inquire on what reasonable grounds we may suppose such an union could be effected; suffice it here to remark that we are ourselves confessedly composed of two distinct natures, which act in mutual contact on each other, and that we may from thence infer, that the being who could ordain such a junction in one instance, could do so in another.
† This supposes an act of revivication having been passed on the dead; but being a subject for future and separate inquiry, we must at present claim our reader's indulgence.