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tration of death, now begins to appear glorious. For now he begins to see things as in fact they be; for now his eyes are opened. *
• And in this view my Theron is made to say, “Let all heaven forever love and adore the infinitely glorious Majesty, although I receive my just desert and perish forever." But says Mr. Cudworth, “This is a species of love beyond what Adam had in paradise, beyond the apostles, the Scripture saints, and even Jesus Christ himself.” (p. 224.) Strange! What! does not Jesus Christ look upon it as a glorious thing in his Father to punish sin according to its desert ? Does not he think his Father
worthy to be loved and adored by all the heavenly hosts, although he does so i and will not all holy beings cry, “ Amen, Hallelujah, at the last day, when they see the law put in execution. And pray, what is their motive? Is it the beauty of vindictive justice, or is it merely because they are safe, and care for none but themselves? If the beauty of vindictive justice is the motive, then they all view things to perfection, in the same light in which a sinner begins in great imperfection to view them, when his eyes first begin to be opened. But if vindictive justice is not a beauty in the divine character in their eyes, and if they cry, "Amen, Hallelujah,” merely because they are safo themselves, and care not what becomes of others, as must be the case on Mr. Cudworth's scheme, let him consider the consequences ; consequences which will overthrow the whole of divine revelation, as will presently appear. And to quote texts of Scripture to prove a point subversive of the whole Scripture scheme, is certainly to pervert them. Besides, Mr. Cudworth is obliged to grant, first, that the divine law does in fact require of all mankind, without exception, that very kind of love to God which he condemns in Theron. Secondly, that this law is holy, just, and good. And, thirdly, that to deny the goodness of this law, is to overthrow Christianity. (p. 226, 230.) And if in regeneration and repentance our eyes begin to be opened to see things as they be, and our hearts to be affected accordingly, then Theron is justified out of Mr. Cudworth's own mouth; and he has no way to avoid this consequence, but to contradict himself, and implicitly give up Christianity, in affirming, that the divine law, in requiring love to God before the pardon of sin, requires, first, what implies “love to our own eternal destruction;" and so, secondly, what is "utterly impossible ;” yea, thirdly, what is in its own nature unreasonable; “inconsistent with the original constitution of reasonable creatures ;" and so, fourthly, what is in its own nature sinful, “contrary to the law of God.” And thus he makes the divine law unreasonable and wicked, that he may justify the sinner in his non-conformity to it. And while he justifies the sinner, he renders needless the atonement of Christ, regeneration, repentance, and pardon, in this case. And thus the whole gospel is overthrown. To avoid this consequence, he turns short about, and affirms, that the sinner “ought to love God, and is self-condemned if he does not,” “ utterly impossible and contrary to the law of God," as it is. And in the midst of all this confusion and self-contradiction, he introduces the death of Christ to solve the difficulty, by delivering us from the curse of this good wicked law, and grant a pardon in the midst of this self-justification and enmity, thereby to pacify our ininds, and give us a good thought of that God, whose character before it was “utterly impossible" to love. And this is all the regeneration he will allow of. And he perverts every text of Scripture he comes across, to support this inconsistent, self-contradictory scheme of sentiments; meanwhile, nothing can be plainer, than that, if God was amiable in the eyes of Adam in paradise, in threatening to punish sin so severely; if he was amiable in the eyes of Christ, in persisting in this disposition after the fall; if to do honor to this character of his Father, the Son of God incarnate died on the cross; if all true believers view Christ in this light, and love him as being thus his father's friend ; then Mr. Cudworth's scheme stands condemned by Adam in paradise, by the apostles, by all the Scripture saints, with Jesus Christ himself at their head;" who could not have been bribed, by all the joys set before him, to have declared his Father's righteousness, had he viewed the divine law in the light Mr. Cudworth does ; an unreasonable, wicked law.
II. If vindictive justice is a glorious and amiable perfection, then it was a glorious and amiable thing in God to bruise him, and put his soul to grief, who had espoused our cause, and appeared as our representative, although he were his own Son ; and it was a glorious thing in the Son of God incarnate, to say, “Thy will be done.” But if vindictive justice is not glorious, there is no glory in the cross of Christ; and where no glory is, no glory can be seen.
III. If vindictive justice is an amiable, glorious perfection, then the grace of God in the gift of his Son was free grace indeed. If I was, in fact, so criminal, so infinitely odious and ill-deserving, that it had been even a glorious piece of conduct in God to have damned me for my sins, the grace which provides me relief is mere pure grace; pure grace indeed. God was so far, so very far from being obliged in justice to help me, that it had been a glorious act of justice, if God had said,
Depart, thou cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." The grace, therefore, which provides relief, is free and glorious grace; and as the freeness and greatness of the grace arises from this view of the case, so it is only in this view of the case that the freeness and greatness of the grace can be seen. Therefore those who are wholly blind to the beauty of vindictive justice, are wholly blind to the nature and glory of the grace of the gospel. And therefore that idea of free grace, which ravishes an Antinomian heart, is a mere imagination, formed in his own fancy, and not the true grace of the gospel.
IV. If vindictive justice is a glorious and amiable perfection in the divine nature, then God is altogether lovely. There is not one blemish in his character: his character, viewed in every point of light, is perfect in beauty. That is, he is, in fact, what he claims to be, by nature God. Therefore our disaffection to the Deity is perfectly groundless, and we have no cloak for our sin, but are absolutely without excuse, our mouths stopped, and we guilty before God; even prior to a consideration of the grace of the gospel.
And, therefore, if now, after we have the gospel revelation, in which we are invited, kindly and earnestly invited, to return to God in the name of Christ, with a promise of divine forgiveness, and even of eternal life through him, we do not return and become heartily reconciled, we shall deserve an aggravated damnation indeed. The heathen world, who never heard of the grace of the gospel, may, for their disaffection to the divine character, which is perfect in beauty, be, with Tyre and Sidon, justly damned; but we, with Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Caper
naum, shall deserve a damnation aggravated beyond expression. “ There shall be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.”
To say that vindictive justice is not a glorious and amiable perfection, is subversive of all religion, natural and revealed.
If vindictive justice is not a glorious and amiable perfection, then there is one blemish in the divine character, one bad property in the divine nature, which yet, it is plain from the whole tenor of his conduct, that God heartily approves of and loves ; which therefore must spoil his whole character, and render it on the whole an unamiable character; a character that cannot be heartily liked and cordially loved. For one bad property entirely approved of, and constantly exercised, will ruin any moral character, and render it devoid of all moral beauty.
If it was a bad thing in God to cast out the rebel angels, as he did, to eternal pains, the elect angels can never forgive it: but must eternally look on their tortures as the effect of something bad in the Deity, and stand ready to justify their blasphemies, and so will really be on the devil's side, notwithstanding all the bounties of Heaven to them. For the bounty of a tyrant can never win the esteem of noble and
generous minds. And how must the death of an incarnate God, on this hypothesis, fill all holy beings with horror. Such a sacrifice as this to tyranny, is beyond imagination dreadful! All the bounties of Heaven to the elect from among mankind, can never reconcile them to such a character, unless we suppose them to be absolutely selfish, void of all goodness, while they forever behold their fellow-creatures, their neighbors, their brethren, their sisters, their sons, their daughters, crying, weeping, wailing, gnashing their teeth, under eternal tortures, all the effect of something bad in the Deity.
So that, if vindictive justice in the divine nature is not amiable and glorious, there is no beauty at all in the divine character, and he never can be loved. And so there is an everlasting end to all religion in the intellectual system; for where there is no love to God, there is no religion.
To say that vindictive justice is no part of God's moral character, is to give up the Old and New Testament, both at once, as well as to contradict a thousand appearances in common providence. And so is it to plunge into downright infidelity, and is little or nothing short of the grossest atheism.
So that we have our choice to approve the divine character, as it stands in the Bible, as being without a blemish, perfect in beauty; or to turn infidels, and sink down into a total uncertainty about every thing in the moral system. To do the first, is the introduction into the Christian life. To do the latter, is VOL. II.
to begin to feel that blackness of darkness, which is to be the portion of God's enemies to all eternity; or, at least, it is an introduction to it.
Objection. “ It is true God's character, as exhibited to view in the law, is not an amiable, nor can it be loved ; but his character, as exhibited in the gospel, is altogether lovely." *
Answer. A hateful character, and a lovely character, are two characters essentially different ; nay, contrary to each other. But two characters essentially different, cannot belong to that one God, who is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. To look upon the character the divine law gives of God as odious; to look upon the character the gospel gives of God as amiable ; and to hate the God of the law, and to love the God of the gospel ; is a kind of religion which puts one in mind of the Manichean scheme, in ancient times ; who professed to believe that there were two gods, the God of the Old Testament, an evil, cruel, hateful being, and the God of the New Testament, a good, kind, lovely being." And if this scheme is not openly espoused by any of the various sects of Christians in the present age, yet it seems to be the secret spirit and soul of all the false schemes of religion now in vogue. But all these schemes are, in fact, no better than infidelity. For if Jesus of Nazareth did not heartily love the character of the God of Israel, as exhibited in his law, he did not come from the God of Israel, he was not the promised Messiah, he was an impostor. For on this hypothesis, he was no friend to the God of Israel ; but plainly on the side of his enemies, his rebellious subjects. And his mediation, in this view, was an affront to the Deity, an infinite reflection on his character ; and so can be of no avail to his followers; and what is all this better than infidelity ?
* The design of every false scheme of religion, is to render the divine character agreeable to the taste of a carnal heart : but to every carnal heart, vindictive justice appears not a beauty, but a blemish ; and such a blemish as spoils God's whole character, and renders it " utterly impossible" to love him. Till then carnal men leave vindictive justice out of their idea of God, at least with reference to themselves; they cannot love God, or “conceive any loveliness in his nature." Some false schemes declare that vindictive justice is no part of the divine character. God intends to make all his creatures finally happy. Other false schemes declare, that, although it is a part of the divine character, yet it is not to be loved. I am to view God as one that loves me, and merely in that view am I to love him : but to love vindictive justice is " utterly impossible." Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, imply, in their nature, a sense of the beauty of vindictive justice. And so the true Christian loves God's real character ; while a wrong idea of God excites the love of every unregenerate man. A kind of love to such a kind of a God, as is consistent with reigning enmity against the true God. (Rom. viii. 7.). “ Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
But if Jesus of Nazareth did heartily love the character of the God of Israel, as exhibited in his law, and died to assert this character to be good, and do it honor, then no man can be his disciple, but he who loves that character too. To hate that character, is to be an enemy to the cross of Christ. “ He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
When Christ was upon earth, the Pharisees, the most religious sect of people then in the world, joined very unanimously to hate his character, pretending at the same time great love to the God of Israel. But our Savior and his apostles insisted upon it, that if they really loved God, they would love him; and if they hated him, it was a full proof they hated God; because both their characters were alike. (John viii. 10, 29, 48; xv. 21, 24 ; xvi. 1, 2, 3. 1 John ii. 22, 23.) But the Pharisees had quite lost the true meaning of the law of Moses; so that with the greatest truth it might be said, that they did not believe Moses' writings, (John v. 47 ;) and consequently had lost a right idea of the true God, as exhibited in his writings. Meanwhile they had formed a new scheme of religion in their fancy, and got themselves to believe it to be the same that was taught by Moses, a scheme which justified such characters as theirs; and as was their scheme of religion, such was their notion of God. And having thus made themselves a God of a character to suit their own hearts, this God they loved. But they hated Christ, who was the express image of the true God. A full proof they hated the true God himself. Even so now also it is in this present age. Christ has been gone to heaven a long time, and the true sense of his gospel has been in a manner totally lost by many, who have professed a great regard to his name; and new Christs, and new gospels, have been invented, more agreeable to the taste of an apostate world, but of a character essentially different from the God of Israel And so it is come to pass that men are prepared to distinguish between the character of God as exhibited in the law, and the character of God as exhibited in the gospel; and hate one and love the other; as characters essentially different ; nay, even contrary the one to the other ; not knowing that it was the very design of the mediatorial office and work of Christ to assert his Father's character, as exhibited in the law, to be an absolutely perfect character, without spot or blemish; although it is expressly affirmed, that he was set forth to be a propitiation for this very end, to declare his Father's righteousness; or, in the language of the prophet, to * magnify the law and make it honorable."
I pray that it may be considered, that if vindictive justice