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them of their death and to give them a distant prospect of its approach. And that was not to destroy them, but to reform them, that they might not be destroyed. Therefore the prediction of Jonah, that after forty days Nineveh should fall, was uttered to prevent its fall. Hezekiah was deprived of the hope of a longer life, in order that he might obtain a prolongation of it in answer to his prayers. Now who does not see, that the Lord by such denunciations as these intended to arout* to repentance the persons whom he thus alarmed, that they might escape the judgment which their sins had deserved? If this be admitted, the nature of the circumstances leads to the Cojj. clusion, that we must understand a tacit condition implied in the simple denunciation. This is also confirmed by similar examples. The Lord, reprehending king Abimelech for having deprived Abraham of his wife, uses these words; " Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife." But after Abimelech has excused himself, the Lord speaks in this manner: "Restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore.her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine." (w) You see, how by the first declaration God terrifies his mind, to dispose him to make satisfaction; but in the next, he makes an explicit declaration of his will. Since other passages are to be explained in a similar manner, you must not infer that there is any abrogation of a prior purpose of the Lord, because he may have annulled some former declarations. For God rather prepares the way for his eternal ordination, when by a denunciation of punishment he calls to repentance those whom he designs to spare, than makes any variation in his will, or even in his declarations, except that he does not syllabically express, what nevertheless is easily understood. For that assertion of Isaiah must remain true; "The Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back." (x)
(») Gen. Jw.3, 7. (*) Isaiah «iv. 27.
God uses the Agency of the impious, and inclines their Minds to execute his Judgments, yet without the least Stain of his perfect Purity.
A QUESTION of greater difficulty arises from other passages, where God is said to incline or draw, according to his own pleasure, Satan himself and all the reprobate. For the carnal understanding scarcely comprehends how he, acting by their means, can contract no defilement from their criminality, and even in operations common to himself and them be free from every fault, and yet righteously condemn those whose ministry he uses. Hence was invented the distinction between doing and permitting; because to many persons this has appeared an inexplicable difficulty, that Satan and all the impious are subject to the power and government of God, so that he directs their malice to whatever end he pleases, and uses their crimes for the execution of his judgments. The modesty of those who are alarmed at the appearance of absurdity, might perhaps be excusable, if they did not attempt to vindicate the Divine justice from all accusation by a pretence utterly destitute of any foundation in truth. They consider it absurd, that a man should be blinded by the will and command of God, and afterwards be punished for his blindness. They therefore endeavour to evade the difficulty, by alleging that it happens only by the permission, and not by the will of God; but God himself, by the most unequivocal declarations, rejects this subterfuge. That men however can effect nothing but by the secret will of God, and can deliberate on nothing but what he hath previously decreed and determines by his secret direction, is proved by express and innumerable testimonies. What we have before cited from the Psalmist, that "God hath done whatsoever he hath pleased," (y) undoubtedly pertains to all the actions of men. If God be the certain arbiter of war and peace, as is there affirmed, and that
(j) Psalm cxv. 3.
without any exception, who will venture to assert, that he remains ignorant and unconcerned respecting men, while they are actuated by the blind influence of chance? But this subject will be better elucidated by particular examples. From the first chapter of Job we know, that Satan presents himself before God to receive his commands, as well as the angels who yield a spontaneous obedience. It is indeed in a different manner, and for a different end; yet he cannot attempt any thing but by the Divine will. Although he seems to obtain only a bare permission to afflict that holy man; yet since this sentence is true, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away," (z) we conclude that God was the author of that trial, of which Satan and mischievous robbers and assassins were the immediate agents. Satan endeavours to drive him by desperation into madness. The Sabeans in a predatory incursion cruelly and wickedly seize upon property not their own. Job acknowledges that he was stripped of all his wealth and reduced to poverty, because such was the will of God. Therefore whatever is attempted by men, or by Satan himself, God still holds the helm to direct all their attempts to the execution of his judgments. God intends the deception of that perfidious king, Ahab; the devil offers his service for that purpose; he is sent with a positive commission to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets, (a) If the blinding and infatuation of Ahab be a divine judgment, the pretence of bare permission disappears. For it would be ridiculous for a judge merely to permit, without decreeing what should be done, and commanding his officers to execute it. The Jews designed to destroy Christ; Pilate and his soldiers complied with their outrageous violence; yet the disciples in a solemn prayer confess that all the impious did nothing but what "the hand and the counsel of God determined before to be done;" (6) agreeably to what Peter had already preached, that he was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," that he might be "crucified and slain." (c) As though he had said that God, who saw every thing from the beginning, with a clear knowledge and determined will, appointed what the Jews executed; as he men.
(z) Job i. 21. (a) 1 Kings xxii. 20—33.
(A) Acts iv. 29. (c) Acts ii. 23.
dons in another place, "Those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled." (c) Absalom, defiling his father's bed with incest, perpetrated a detestable crime: yet God pronounces that this was his work: for his words are, "Thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun." (d) Whatever cruelty the Chaldeans exercised in Judea, Jeremiah pronounces to be the work of God. (e) For which reason Nebuchadnezzar is called the servant of God. God frequently proclaims, that the impious are excited to war by his hissing, by the sound of his trumpet, by his influence, and by his command: he calls the Assyrian the rod of his anger, and the staff which he moves with his hand. The destruction of the holy city, and the ruin of the temple he calls his own work. (f) David, not murmuring against God, but acknowledging him to be a righteous Judge, confesses the maledictions of Shimei to proceed from his command. " The Lord," says he, "hath said unto him, Curse." (g) It often occurs in the Sacred History, that whatever comes to pass proceeds from the Lord; as the defection of the ten tribes, (A) the death of the sons of Eli, (?) and many events of a similar kind. Those who are but moderately acquainted with the Scriptures will perceive that, for the sake of brevity, out of a great number of testimonies, I have produced only a few; which nevertheless abundantly evince how nugatory and insipid it is, instead of the providence of God, to substitute a bare permission: as though God were sitting in a watchtower, expecting fortuitous events, and so his decisions were dependent on the will of men.
II. With respect to his secret influences, the declaration of Solomon concerning the heart of a king, that it is inclined hither or thither, according to the divine will, (d) certainly extends to the whole human race, and is as much as though he had said, that whatever conceptions we form in our minds, they *xe directed by the secret inspiration of God. And certainly.
(c) Acts iii. 18. (rl) 2 Sam. xii. 12. xvi. 22.
(*) Jer. 1.25. (/) Isaiah v. 26. x. 5. xix 25.
(?) 2 Sam. xvi. 10. (A) 1 Kings xi. 31.
(/) I Sam. n. 54. (<■) Prov. xxi. 1.
if he did not operate internally on the human mind, there would be no propriety in asserting, that he causeth "the wisdom of the wise to perish, and the understanding of the prudent to be hid; that he poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way." (/) And to this alludes, what we frequently read, that men are timorous, as their hearts are possessed with his fear. (m) Thus David departed from the camp of Saul, without the knowledge of any one; "because a deep sleep from the Lord was fallen upon them all." (n) But nothing can be desired more explicit than his frequent declarations, that he blinds the minds of men, strikes them with giddiness, inebriates them with the spirit of slumber, fills them with infatuation, and hardens their hearts. (a) These passages also many persons refer to permission, as though, in abandoning the reprobate, God permitted them to be blinded by Satan. But that solution is too frivolous, since the Holy Spirit expressly declares that their blindness and infatuation are inflicted by the righteous judgment of God. He is said to have caused the obduracy of Pharaoh's heart, and also to have aggravated and confirmed it. Some elude the force of these expressions with a foolish cavil; that, since Pharoah himself is elsewhere said to have hardened his own heart, his own will is stated as the cause of his obduracy. As though these two things were at all incompatible with each other, that man should be actuated by God, and yet at the same time be active himself. But I retort on them their own objection; for if hardening denotes a bare permission, Pharoah cannot properly be charged with being the cause of his own obstinacy. Now how weak and insipid would be such an interpretation, as though Pharoah only permitted himself to be hardened. Besides the Scripture cuts off all occasion for such cavils. God says, "I will harden his heart." (p) So also Moses says, concerning the inhabitants of Canaan, that they marched forth to battle, because the Lord had hardened their hearts; (y) which is likewise repeated bv another Prophet; ** He turned their hearts to hate his people." (r) Thus also, in Isaiah, he
(/) Isaiah xxix. 14. Psalm cvii. 40. Ezck. vii. '.'6. (m) Lev. xxvi. 36.
(n) 1 Sam. xxvi. 12. (o) Rom. i. 28. xi. 8. Exod. viii. 15.
(/)) Exod. iv. 81. (7) Deut.ii. 30. Joshua xi. 2* (r) Psalm cv. 25.