Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

the heathen world had not sufficient means of knowledge, and so were not wholly to blame and inexcusable in their non-conformity to the law, he does here designedly obviate the objection, and prove and declare them to be without any objection from that quarter. The apostle evidently takes it for granted, that they had sufficient natural powers to capacitate them for the knowl, edge of God, and he proves that their outward advantages were sufficient; and so he lays the whole blame of their ignorance, blindness, and wickedness upon themselves ; and finally sums them up, with the rest of mankind, as having their mouths stop, ped, and standing guilty before God.... Chapter iii. 19,

The truth of the case seems, in a few words, to lie here ;-that if Adam had never fell, the works of creation and providence had been the glass in which he himself, and all his posterity, would have beheld the glory of the Lord, from age to age ; whereby, being naturally of a right temper, they would have been effec, tually infuenced to love him, live to him, delight in him, and praise him forever; or, in St. Paul's words, To glorify God as God, and be thankful. And I suppose that all mankind, still hav, ing the same natural powers, and the same outward advantages, are therefore entirely to blame for, and wholly inexcusable in, all their ignorance, blindness, and wickedness ; especially con, sidering they perfectly love to be what they are, and hate to be reclaimed, and stand ready to resist the light when offered, and shut their eyes against the truth, from whatever quarter it comes.

The heavens, still as clearly as ever, do declare the glory of the Lord, and the firmement sheweth his handy work; day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge... Psalm xix. 1. The natural perfections of God are clearly to be seen in all his works at the first glance, and his moral perfections would be equally evident to an intelligent creature of a right temper at the second thought : And then his glory would immediately shine brighter than the sun, and every heart be ravished with his infinite beauty : But such is our alienation from the Deity in this apostate world, and such the vitiated temper of our minds, that while angels see the divine glory in all his works, (Rev.

R

[ocr errors]

iv. 11.) men, sottish, brutish men, though they have eyes to see, see not ; but are blind to the manifestations which God makes of himself, because they do not like to have God in their knowledge. And now,

3. As to the heathens being accepted for honestly improving their powers and advantages, it is, in the

first place, most certain, from St. Paul's account, that they were at the

very greatest distance from doing so. But, secondly, if they had done so, yea, if they had discovered so good a temper of mind as perfectly to have conformed to the divine law, yet it is the very scope of all the apostle's reasoning, in the three first chapters of his epistle to the Rorans, to prove that by the deeds of the law no flesh, neither Jew nor Gentile, can be justified : And since the law is holy, just, and good, it is not, indeed, reasonable that any thing short of sinless perfection, from first to last, should pass with the righteous Governor of the world as a condition of acceptance. Future obedience, let it be ever so perfect, can do nothing to make amends for former neglects-as bas been already proved in another place: But that which, of itself alone, is entirely sufficient to say in this matter, is, that it is expressly declared in Rom. i. 18.... The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness (or every breach of the first table), and unrighteousness (or every breach of the second table of the law), of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness : which words are evidently designed, by the apostle, to represent the character and state of the heathen world ; for he spends the rest of the chapter in enlarging upon this head, shewing how the heathen held the truth in unrighteousness, and were exposed to the wrath of God for their ungodliness and unrighteousness ; and he concludes them all under sin, and guilty, and lost forever, unless they obtain justification by faith in Christ....(See Chapter iii. 9, 19, 20, 30 verses.) And thus we see how all mankind have not only sufficient natural powers, but also sufficient outward advantages to know God and perfectly conform to his law, even the heathen themselves; and that the very reason they do not, is their want of such a temper as they ought to have, and their voluntary, root

[ocr errors]

ed enmity to God, and love to sin.* And now that they are wholly to blame and entirely inexcusable, appears still in a clearer light.

But before I leave this point, I must make this remark, viz. That if God looks upon the advantages of the heathen sufficient, no wonder that he so often speaks of the advantages of his own professing people as being much more than barely sufficient, even although they enjoy only the outward means of grace, without the inward influences of the holy spirit : for, if the natural advantages of the heathen are sufficient, surely the supernatural advantages of those who enjoy a divine revelation, are much more than sufficient : And if the advantages of those who enjoy only a divine revelation are much more than sufficient, no wonder then that those who lived in the days of Moses, Isaiah," and Christ, are represented as very monsters of wickedness, for

* Obj. But it is impossible they should love God with all their bearts, if they have no hopes of finding favor in bis sight ; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a REWARDER of them that diligently seek him.... Hebrews xi. 6.

Ans. Coming to God, in Heb. xi. 6, evidently implies not only a consormity to the law, but also a compliance with the gospel; i. e. it implies not only a disposition to love God with all our hearts, but also a trusting in him for the divine favor and eternal life upon gospel-encouragements ; which gospel-encouragements must, therefore, be understood and believed, or it will, indeed, be impossible so to trust in him. But I did not say that the beatben were under sufficient outward advantages for an evangelical returning to God, which is what is intended in Heb. xi. 6. but only for a compliance with the law of nature, which is what is intended in Rom. i. 20, 21.

OBJ. But still is it not, the nature of things, impossible they should love God, if they have no hopes of finding favor in his sight?

ANS. Let common sense decide the case :-A servant hates his inaster (a very good man) without cause, murders his only son, steals a thousand pounds of his money, runs away into a far country, spends several years in riotous living ; at length he is caught, brought home to his master, who is a man in authority ; before him he has his trial, is condemned, and has no hope of favor. But how does this render it impossible, in the nature of things, that he should love his master ? Why cannot he love his master now, as well as ever he could ? He has the same original grounds of love he used to have : He used to love his master--his master is as worthy of his esteem as ever : He has no cause to esteem his master any the less, because he himself has been such a villain, or because he is doomed to die for his crimes ;-a punishment justly due. To dislike his master for these things would be perfectly unreasonable : Surely, were he but of a right temper, he could not but take all the blame to himself, and justify his master, and esteem and love him, and be heartily sorry for all his villanies : He can be under no inability, but what must arise from a bad heart.-The application is easy.

1

remaining blind, senseless, impenitent; and unholy, since they enjoyed such great, and so many superadded advantages : No wonder, therefore, that Moses every where represents the chilcken of Isruel as such a stubborn, perverse, stiff-necked, rebellious people, (particularly see Deut. ix.) and makes as if their blindness, senselessness, and impenitency were most unaccountable and inexcusable, since their eyes had seen, and their ears hal heard such things, and their advantages had been so great. Deut. xxix. 2, 3, 4.... And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; (and that he might set forth the greatness of the things which they had seen, he adds), The great temptations which thine eyes have seen...the signs, and those great miracles, (all which have been enough to melt the heart of a stone, and) ijet (as he goes oh to say), the Lord (by all these things which hare been so much more than enough), hath not given you an heari to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day : All these means have not to this day attained the end, and made you see, and feel, and know what a God the Lord is, and bring you to love him, and fear him, and walk in all his ways. Mo. ses evidently speaks of it as a very strange thing that they should be blind, senseless, inpenitent, and unholy, after such means and advantages--as if they were most inexcusable, yca, under a very aggravated guilt; whereby he ple': 'y takes it for granted, that their advantages had been much more than sufficient, had it not been for their want of a right temper, and their wicked oba stinacy and perverseness. And yet he mentions none but outward means and ouluvard advantages, and does not give the least intimation that they had had any inwurd assistance from the ho. ly spirit: he does not bring any such thing into the account, but wholly aggravates their sin and their great inexcusableness, from the consideration of their outward helps :--Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the kind of Egypt, &c. And no wonder he thought them so very inexcusable, since God looks upon the heathen world without excuse, in that while the

heavens declare the glory of the Lord, &c. they do not see with their eyes, and perceive with their hearts, and, from a sense of his glory, only thus discovered, love him, and live to him ; for, if their advantages are enough, surely the advantages of the Israelites were much, very much, more than enough.

And, upon the same hypothesis, it is no wonder that God looked upon the case of the children of Israel as he did, in the time of Isaiah ; who, from the days of Moses even to that day, had, from age to age, enjoyed such outward advantages as they had, and had had such outward means used with them ; and, in that age, enjoyed so great an outward privilege as the daily prophesying and preaching of Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah; who, some, if not all, of them prophesied, it is very probable, forty or fifty years together at the same time, as we may learn from the first verse in their several books, which tell us when and how long they prophesied, compared with the account we have of those kings' reigns, in the books of the Kings, in whose reigns they prophesied ;-no wonder, I say, God speaks as he does in Isaiah v. 1–7....Mly beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill : And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein: Here is represented the natural powers, and outward advantages of God's people.--And he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes : And now, O inhalitants of Jerusalent, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes ? Here all the blame is entirely laid on themselves, and their conduct is considered as being inexcusably, yea, unaccountably bad.–And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard - I will take irway the hedge thereof, &c. Where nothing can be plainer than that the children of Israel are represented as enjoying sufficient advantages for fruitfulness-yea, advantages much more than barely sufficient ; and that their proving as they did, was

« VorigeDoorgaan »