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is essential to the divine character, and if it is in its own nature a bad thing, an unamiable property, that this one blemish will spoil God's whole character; and it will be impossible for any holy being in the universe to love him. None can love him but stupid, selfish creatures, who believe that he loves them, and who care not what becomes of others. For, if it must have rendered God's character hateful to have punished me according to his law, it must, for the same reason, render it hateful to punish any other according to his law. So that, on this hypothesis, if I am saved, yet God's character must appear odious in my eyes to all eternity, unless he save all others. So I shall hate God's character in heaven, while I view the torments of the damned ; and all the love I shall have to him, will be simply from a selfish, narrow principle; because he has elected, and loved, and saved me; for I can see no beauty in his character. For in fact there is none, if vindictive justice be a bad and an unamiable property, for one bad property entirely approved of, and constantly exercised, will render any character entirely devoid of moral beauty. Therefore, —
The rapturous joys of sinners, who are blind to the beauty of the divine character as exhibited in his law, arising merely frorn a belief that God loves them and will save them, have nothing of the nature of holiness or love to God in them; nor will this kind of religion, although raised to the highest perfection, in the least qualify a man to live in heaven. To view things as they do there, would kill this kind of religion in a moment. A sight of the state of the damned would put an end to all their good thoughts of God, in the twinkling of an eye. And while heaven, ravished with the beauty of the divine conduct, resounds with hallelujahs, they would begin to cry, “No, no, he is a tyrant ! see, yonder is my neighbor, my brother, my child, in torments !” And away would they
, flee to their proper company, side with them, and join in their blasphemies; unless we suppose this sort of converts, should they come to heaven, so entirely destitute of any thing like benevolence, as to feel perfectly easy at the misery of others, merely because they do not care for any but themselves.
If vindictive justice were not glorious, it would be impossible, that the Son of God incarnate should make such a glorious appearance as he will at the day of judgment; he would rather be dressed in sackcloth — impossible, that he who wept over Jerusalem, would now, without the least reluctance, pronounce the final sentence on the wicked ; and impossible, that this sentence should be succeeded with unmixed, endless joys, among angels and saints, beings perfect in benevolence, and the most generous goodness.
But neither Christ, nor angels, nor saints, will, at that day, look on the controversy which has subsisted between God and his rebellious subjects, as it is generally looked upon now among mankind. God's infinite worthiness of supreme love and honor, and universal obedience, and the infinite evil of sin, will then be seen; and the wisdom, holiness, justice, and goodness of all God's ways will be brought to light; and the unreasonable disaffection and inexcusable obstinacy of an apostate race will appear in their true colors. The whole history of mankind will be opened, and all the opposition made to the truth, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Christ, nay, to the blood of the last martyr, will be brought into the account, with all the despisings of the divine authority, threatenings, warnings, calls, etc. So that all holy beings will be fully and perfectly satisfied, nay, perfectly pleased, with the last sentence on the wicked. And it will be so far from lessening their happiness, that it will give them new additional joys; and they will all join in saying, " Amen, hallelujah; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth ; and true and righteous are his judgments. And again they will say, Hallelujah ; while the smoke of their torments ascends forever and ever." And all this in perfect consistence with the purest benevolence. Yea, all this will be the native result of benevolence, of love to God, and to the general good of the universe; as the wicked will be viewed as enemies to being in general, to God, to the universe, and to all good.
GOD, WHO IS THE SUPREME, ALL-SUFFICIENT GOOD, CAN, CONSIST
ENTLY WITH HIS HONOR, AND IS WILLING TO, BECOME A GOD AND FATHER, AND EVERLASTING PORTION, TO ALL WHO RETURN TO HIM THROUGH JESUS CHRIST
That God is an absolutely perfect, and so an infinitely glorious and amiable being, is the first article of faith in the creed of every true Christian. And the second, which, in point of importance, is like unto it, is, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. On these two articles hang all the law and the gospel, all the doctrines of natural and revealed religion. As it is written, (John xvii. 3,) “ This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” A variety of consequences from these two fundamental truths have been already pointed out; and we now go on to add,
1. If God is an absolutely perfect, an infinitely amiable and glorious being, of necessity he must be the supreme, all-sufficient good.
II. If Jesus of Nazareth is his Son, it is equally certain that he can, consistent with his honor, and is willing to, become a God and Father, and everlasting portion, to all who return to him through Jesus Christ.
1. If God is an absolutely perfect, an infinitely glorious and amiable being, of necessity he must be the supreme, all-sufficient good. He must be the supreme good ; for it implies a contradiction to say, that any thing can be better than the best ; and God cannot be better than he is. Absolute perfection cannot be more perfect than it is. Infinite wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, armed with almighty power, constitute a character absolutely perfect; a beauty without a blemish, a beauty infinitely bright. In the knowledge, love, and enjoyment of such a being, therefore, must consist the greatest possible happiness.
And at the same time, the absolute perfection of the divine nature renders the Deity infinitely amiable and delightful in himself; the whole universe exists by him, is entirely in his hands, and under his government, and at his control. In him, all “ live, and move, and have their being." “ The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” And “his throne is established in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all. His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure.” So that he is the fountain and source of all being, possessed of authority absolutely supreme, the sum and source of all good, and therefore in the highest sense absolutely all-sufficient. To have God for our God, is infinitely better than to be ourselves set up at the head, and made lords of the whole universe.
There are things of an earthly nature which are good in their places, as health, food, raiment, friends, etc., which we receive from God, the original Lord of all things; and for which therefore we ought to be thankful to him, and improve to his glory. But they are not fit to be the portion of our souls. And if we set our hearts upon them as our supreme good, we are guilty of idolatry. And if we set them up for our God, and bow down our souls to them, we act as stupid and sinful a part as those who, of old, bowed down to idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. And when we come to die, they will prove as insufficient for our happiness, as the gods of the heathen did for theirs. Nay, the society of angels and saints in heaven, leave God out of the account, would by no means afford that refined and sublime, that complete and stable happiness we need, to give us full and perfect satisfaction; much less will the society of saints on earth. Nay, leave God out of the account, and angels and saints, and the whole universe, would sink into nothing in a moment. So that God is not only the supreme, all-sufficient good, but, strictly speaking, the sum total of all good. (Ps. lxxiii. 25.) Whom have I in heaven but thee ? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.
Therefore, to love, honor, and obey the Deity, as divine law requires, is as much our privilege as it is our duty; and nothing but our criminal blindness to the absolute perfection, to the infinite glory and amiableness of the divine nature, prevents its appearing so to our souls.
Suppose a father, of an unblemished character, of consummate wisdom, the owner of a large estate, at the head of a numerous family. For the children to love his character, respect his person, to put an implicit trust in the wisdom of his conduct relative to family affairs; to rejoice in his supremacy, power, and authority over his household; and that all the estate is in his hands, and all his family dependent on him, and in their temper and behavior to be all dependence, subjection and obedience, is as much their privilege as it is their duty. And nothing but a criminal state of mind can prevent its appearing so in their eyes. To be disaffected to such a father's character, to be discontented under his government, to rise in rebellion, to go and leave his house, is as imprudent and foolish as it is undutiful and wicked; and must appear so to the prodigal child, as soon as ever he comes to himself. And now to repent and return, and become a dutiful child, must appear not only the fittest, but the happiest thing in the world. And to have such a man, with such an estate in his hands, for a father, is better for a child than to have all the estate put into his own hands, and to be rendered supreme and independent. So for us sinners to repent and be converted, to return to God through Jesus Christ, and to have him for our God and Father, is better, yea, infinitely better, than to have all the universe put into our hands. And love his character, delight in his exaltation, rejoice in his supremacy and independency, and in the infinite wisdom and absolute perfection of his universal government, and to be full of holy fear and reverence, submissive, resigned, obedient, as dutiful children, is not only an honor due to God from us, but also our highest privilege and happiness. It is heaven on earth. It is even the beginning of eternal life in
the soul; and nothing but criminal blindness can prevent its appearing so to us all. (Ps. lxxvii. 22.) “So foolish was 1, and ignorant; I was as a beast before thée."
“I will be their God;" as it is in its own nature the greatest possible good, so it is the grand blessing of the gospel, in which all the rest finally terminate. (Heb. iv. 10. Rev. xxi. 7.) Regeneration, repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification, considered under the notion of gospel privileges and blessings, all summarily consist in our being delivered from an everlasting separation, in temper and state, from the Deity, with its consequences; and brought to an everlasting enjoyment of God, as our father, friend, and portion. By the fall we lost God, we lost his image and favor, we lost a heart to love him, and a right to enjoy him; we became disaffected to him, and we forsook him, and were doomed to depart, to be forever given up to the power of sin, and to be monuments of the divine wrath forever. In regeneration, repentance, faith, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification, we are recovered to the image and favor of God, to a heart to love him, and a right to enjoy him, and to the actual love and enjoyment of him as our God, our supreme good, our father, friend, and portion. " Everlasting" or "eternal life" is the phrase most commonly used to express summarily all the blessings of the gospel, in contrast with “eternal death,” the wages of the first, the wages of every sin. (John iii. 15, 16, 36; iv. 14; v. 27; vi. 40, 47. Rom. vi. 23, etc.) And our Savior tells us wherein eternal life consists. (John xvii. 3.) “This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” God the Father, who is eminently Father and Lord of heaven and earth, (not exclusive of the Son and Spirit,) is considered as the sum and fountain of all perfection and of all good.
6 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.” Christ is considered as the way to the Father, the only way in which sinners can come to the enjoy. ment of him. (John xiv. 6.) “I am the way; no man cometh to the Father but by me." And the Holy Spirit is considered as the person by whom we are quickened, raised from the dead, and brought to God through Jesus Christ. (Eph. ii. 18.) Through Christ we have access by the Spirit unto the Father. And when the work of redemption is completely finished, and all the redeemed brought to heaven, God will be all in all through eternal ages. (1 Cor. xv. 28.) Therefore, “I will be their God,” is the grand blessing of the gospel, in which all the rest finally terminate. This, therefore, is in an eminent manner