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might be supposed to be, ever so willing. But it is usual, both iff scripture and in common speech, to express the state of a person under the dominion of an exceeding strong propensity, by the terms cannot, unable, &c. They that are in the flesh Cannot please God.—Why do ye not understand my speech? Because ye Cannot hear my word.—Having eyes full of adultery, and Cannot cease from sin.—Joseph's brethren Could Not speak peaceably to him.— How Can ye, being evil, speak good things ?—How Can ye believe, who receive honour one of another? Now, when the word is used in this sense, it would be a contradiction to suppose a willingness, or an incapacity in case of willingness, seeing it is the want of willingness wherein the incapacity consists.
That the term cannot, in John vi. 44, denotes the strength of evil propensities, and not any natural and excusable hindrance, is evident from the cure here mentioned ; namely, the Father's drawing. When we are drawn by divine influence to come to Christ, it is a drawing of the heart towards that to which it was before averse ; consequently it was the aversion of the heart wherein the inability consisted.
It has been usual with writers, to express the difference between these two different kinds of inability, by the terms natural and moral. To this, it has been objected, that, " the scripture knows of no such distinction." If by this is meant that the scripture does not expressly make such a distinction, it is true ; but if this be a proof that the scripture knows nothing of the thing, it will at the same time prove that the scripture knows nothing of the doctrines of the trinity, divine providence, the satisfaction of Christ, with many other acknowledged truths of the last importance. After all, terms are not worth disputing about, provided the ideas included under them are admitted. That the ideas in this case are scriptural, is sufficiently evident from the forecited passages. Every person of common understanding, whether he will or not, must of necessity perceive a difference between the inability of the mariners recorded in Jonah, and that of the adulterers mentioned by Peter; and that the one rendered the parties excusable, and the other constituted them the more highly
culpable. Let this difference be but admitted, it matters not what terms are used, provided they do but sufficiently express it.
Sixthly: A conviction of the righteousness of God's government, .of the spirituality and goodness of his law, the evil of sin, our lost condition by nature, and the justice of our condemnation, is necessary in order to our coming to Christ. I think each of these ideas are included in the phrase learned of the Father. Without this, there can be no solid conviction of the need of a Saviour. The sinner will be whole in his own account; and they that are whole need not a physician. A knowledge of the Father as the lawgiver of the world, must precede a hearty reception of Christ as a Saviour. It is through ihe law we become dead to the law, that we may live unto God. The law is our schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ. It is therefore very unreasonable, as well as unscriptural, for any, under the pretence of knowing Christ, to decry the law of God, seeing it is by learning at that school we are prepared to come to Christ.
Lastly: There is absolute necessity of a special divine agency in order to our coming to Christ. No man Can come unto mi, except the Father who sent me draw him. Those who deny the grace of God to be invincible in its operations, understand this and other passages, of what is sometimes called, I think, moral influence; that is, such influence as men may have upon the minds of each other in a way of persuasion. And so they suppose the sense of the text is, that no man can come to Christ, unless he have the gospel preached unto him. But it ought to be considered, that drawing, in verse 44, is tantamount to having learned of the Father, in verse 45, where it is declared that every man that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto Christ. But it is not every cne that hath been objectively instructed by the preaching of the gospel, who comes to Christ; it must therefore be such an instruction and drawing as is peculiar to true believers ; such a drawing as that whereon our coming certainly follows: and thus we believe, according to the working of his mighty power.
Upon the whole, we see from these passages taken together, first, if any man is lost, whom he has to blame for it—Himself; Secondly, if any man is saved, whom he has to praise for it~GOD.
A PARAPHRASE ON ECCLES. VII. 15—19.
There have been various opinions on the advice of the wise man, Be not righteous overmuch, &c. Great numbers have produced it with a view to censure religious zeal, and in favour of a spirit of indifference. Others, who would abhor such an abuse of it, have yet thought it directed against intemperate zeal. Others have thought righteousness and wisdom here, to mean a spirit of self-righteousness, and a being wise in our own eyes. Others have thought the verses to be a caution against presumption on the one hand, and despair on the other. And some have considered the whole book as a dialogue between a libertine and a moral philosopher; and that the above passage is the language of the former. It is not my design to find fault with any except theirs*; though I acknowledge they have neither of them afforded me satisfaction. The following paraphrase is submitted to the judgment of the intelligent reader.
Suppose Solomon to be addressing himself to a young man, which he frequently does under the character of a*on, not only in the Proverbs, but in this book also, Chap. zi. 9. xii. 1, 12. And suppose verses 16 and 17, to be an irony, or a cutting sarcasm, upon the unrighteous and foolish taste of the world.
Ver. 15. All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.
* I have lived to see many strange things in my*life lime ; things that have made me lose all liking to the present state. I have seen uprightness, instead of promoting a man in the esteem of those about him, only serve to bring him to ruin. I have also seen wickedness, instead of exposing a man to the loss of life or estate, often go unpunished, yea, and even be the mean,? of his promotion.'
Ver. 16. Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself overwise: why shnuldest thou destroy thyself?
'My son, if you wish to go through the world with applause, hearken to me. You must not be very 'righteous, I assure you! nor yet very wise. A man whose conscience will stick at nothing, will get promoted before you ; and a vain, confident fool will gain the popular applause, while yon, with your sterling but modest wisdom, will be utterly neglected. Be not overmuch wise nor righteous, my son : why should you ruin yourself V
Ver. 17. Be not overmuch wicked; neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?
'Only take care you be not too much wicked; for however mankind are averse to tenderness of conscience, they do not like an arrant villain. If you play too much at that game, you may lose your life by it. Neither miist you be too much of a fool; for however mankind are not fond of sterling wisdom, yet barefaced folly will not always go down with them : if you would please the world and get honour among the generality of men, you must be neither a sterling wise man, nor a stark fool.'
As it is the distinguishing mark of an irony to close seriously, and as such a close gives it its edge and force ;* so now it is supposed the irony ends, and the serious style is resumed.
Ver. 18. It is good that thou xhouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand : for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.
As if he should say,' But hearken, my son ; another word before we part. Notice what I say to you, and abide by it. Let the world say what they will, and let things go as Jhey may in the world, righteousness and wisdom shall be found best at last ; and he that feareth God will not dare to sacrifice these excellencies to obtain a few temporary honours : he will sooner live and die in obscurity.'
Ver. 19. Wisdom strengthened the wise, more thai ten mighty men which are in the city.
* See 1 Kings xxii. 15. 17. Eccles. xi. 9. Vol. VIII. 8 ,
• A consciousness of his being in the right too, will wonderfully sustain his mind ; far more than any popular applause could do, or even the rewards and honours of the great.'
If the above be the sense of the passage, then it may be observed, how foreign, as well as foolish, is that sense which some bare put upon it, as if it were intended to recommend a kind of mediocrity of virtue and vice; whereas this is the very thing intended to be satirized. A sensualist might as well plead for his practices, from Chap. xi. 9. Rejoice, 0 young man in thy youth, &c. as a lukewarm professor use this passage to plead for his