« VorigeDoorgaan »
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.
The term sovereignty, taken in its most general and comprehensive sense, denotes, when we speak of God, his right to do whatever seems good in his sight. It doubtless includes the prerogative of acting towards the creatures whom he has formed (we speak not now, it must be observed, of accountable beings) as he pleases. But it clearly comprehends much more than this; for he had a right to create, or not to create. That stupendous act of power which gave existence to the first beings and worlds, was an act of high sovereignty. No creature can possess any claim upon God before it exists; it must consequently derive its being from the mere good pleasure of its Creator. Jehovah owed it to himself alone to emerge from that state in which he had existed before the beginning—to exhibit, in the mighty wonders which his hand has wrought, his own most perfect character, and then to form a race of beings capable of appreciating its excellence, and of bearing some resemblance to the God who made them. To Divine sovereignty must then be traced the determination to create, as well as the subsequent act of creation itself. And, when the determination to create, to speak after the manner of men, had arisen in the mind of the Deity, it is further manifest that the kind and manner of existence to be imparted to every creature—the qualities and powers to be conferred upon it,—whether it should be constituted an organized or an un-organized being,—whether it should possess life or not,-and, if the former, whether it should enjoy vegetable or animal life, whether it should be endowed with instinct merely, or with reason, connecting with it accountability—it is manifest that all these points must have fallen under the exclusive determination of sovereignty.
SOVEREIGNTY THE SOURCE OF BEING, &c.
If Jehovah did not owe even existence to the mineral, the animal, the man, it is even yet more obvious that he could not owe to the first, organization; to the second, life; to the third, rationality. Thus, in the bestowment of existence, and of these varied forms of existence, the Creator exercised his right to do whatever seems good in his sight.
Again, when beings, endowed with diversified qualities and powers, have been brought into existence, the Creator has a right, by virtue of his relation to them, to bestow those means of enjoyment, and to exact that measure of service, which he chooses to impart, and to require. The communication of existence, and of a certain mode of existence, to any being, cannot surely render God a debtor to that being : (still we speak not, let it not be forgotten, of accountable creatures.) The bestowment of ane favour cannot confer a right upon the recipient to demand another. It is hence manifest, that the existence, and the kind of matter, to be found in any part of the universe, that the life, and manner of life, enjoyed by the plant, and the animal,--the faculties, the comfort, the duration of being, in the case of the latter—are all to be traced to Divine sovereignty; they are manifestations and exercises of God's inalienable right to do whatever seems good in his sight.
There is thus nothing exterior to God himself to control the Divine operations. They are, however, controlled by his own perfections. All those primary acts of sovereignty, to which reference has been made, were put forth under the guidance of his own most perfect and blessed nature; and every subsequent act of sovereignty must, it is manifest, be in entire accordance with that nature. Now the nature of God is love; and, consequently, the Divine sovereignty-or the right to do what he pleases, which we have ascribed to God—resolves itself into the blessed and holy prerogative to manifest the essential benevolence of his nature in any way that seems good to him. Thus sovereignty becomes the source of good to the creature, and of good only. It is manifestly impossible that evil should flow, previously to the existence of a moral system, from the Fountain of perfect
AND OF GOOD ONLY.
benevolence. We must not forget, however, that sovereignty is the source of good, exclusively of evil, merely on account of the benevolent character of the Creator, and not on account of any supposed right to the enjoyment of good on the part of the creature; for such right can only exist in connexion with a moral system. God derives his right to do what he will with the beings whom he creates, from the relation which he bears to them. It does not rest upon the benevolence of his character; it would not be annihilated by a malevolent character. I am well aware how impossible it is to conceive of malevolence in connexion with that Being who " is blessed for ever.” Yet an extreme case may be put, for the sake of illustrating a principle. Let us then admit, for a moment, the monstrous supposition of a malevolent Creator! Would he not, even in that case, retain his relation of Creator?-and, with it, a right to do with the creature as he might choose ? How can it be doubted?“ The potter," whatever be his character, “has power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour.” It may possibly be objected that the Creator cannot have a right to make an innocent creature miserable. We do not say he has. But the objection falsely and absurdly assumes (an assumption overlooked even by Dr. Williams) the existence of innocence without a moral system; whereas nothing can be more manifest than that both guilt and innocence owe their existence to a moral system. We never speak, except figuratively, of an innocent beast, because a mere animal is not a subject of moral government.
The Creator cannot be unkind to the animal, because he is benevolent; but, to deny his abstract right to deal with it as he chooses, is to remove that right from the foundation on which the Scriptures uniformly rest it, viz., his relation to it as Creator, and to place it on another ground. The reader is therefore again requested to observe, that sovereignty becomes the source of unmingled good, solely on account of the benevolent character of the Creator. He is good; he pleases accordingly to do good; and, therefore, “his tender mercies are over all his works.”
MORAL GOVERNMENT, EQUITY,
The great end of God in creation was to promote his own glory, i. e., to unfold his character, that it might become the object of admiration, and love, and confidence; as well as the instrumental cause of moral purity, to beings capable of perceiving and appreciating its infinite excellence. To secure this
purpose it was necessary to form a more elevated order of beings than any we have as yet referred to; beings endowed with intellectual and moral powers, with understanding, affections, conscience, will, freedom of choice, &c. session of these powers—inseparably connected as they are with accountability-led by necessary consequence to the establishment of a system of moral government; the subjects of which are neither impelled by physical force to fulfil the great ends of their being, not prompted by instinct, as in the case of brutes; but, receiving intelligible directions from their Maker in reference to the conduct they should adopt, have certain inducements presented to their view, adapted to operate upon the powers with which their minds are endowed, , and thus to secure a voluntary obedience to the law under which they are placed.
Now it will be perceived that the establishment of a system of moral government gives room for the development of another principle in the Divine conduct; for the inducements to obedience, to which we have just referred, are in reality promises of great ultimate good in case of obedience, and threatenings of great ultimate evil, in case of disobedience. In the judgment of the moral Governor, the unerring standard of moral obligation, this good and this evil constitute what ought to be experienced by the obedient and the rebellious subjects of his government. Thus moral government affords opportunity for the display of the principle of equity, whose distinguishing and exclusive office it is, to give to all the subjects of the government the precise measure, either of good or of evil, which they deserve. It is further evident that the institution of this kind of
government, does not merely afford an opportunity for the development of equity, but that it brings the Divine conduct towards the subjects of that government under the habitual