« PreviousContinue »
harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, take place in a regular succession; and in consequence of this regularity we readily believe that the same laws of nature whose effects are uniform in Europe, operate in the same way in every part of the globe. Though the constitution by which events are thus conjoined must, as the appointment of infinite wisdom, rest on the best possible grounds, we can conceive it reversed, so as to present the same events to us in a very different order. The same remark applies to the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic economy, and to all institutions merely positive, which however excellent on account of the ends which they subserve, and however binding on the conscience as enjoined by God, might, without any contradiction, be.conceived otherwise. But there are certain other things united together, whose disjunction we cannot conceive possible. It is impossible that the blessed God should relinquish any attribute of his nature; or that his law should be otherwise than holy, and just, and good ; or that any creature should ever become independent of him, or be absolved from the duty of loving and obeying him. In like manner is it impossible that any being formed in his likeness, and with capacities for enjoyment that can only be filled by his blissful favour and presence, should be happy after it has apostatized from God, and has ceased to have access to the fountain of living waters. Does not misery follow disobedience to God, and the voluntary withdrawment of the heart from him, as a natural and necessary consequence ; and is it possible for the sinner by any mere enactment of power, or by any means whatever, while he continues a rebel against God, to escape this consequence ?
It is true, we do not see in the present life all the misery that necessarily follows the commission of sin, because mankind are placed under a mediatorial economy, and because of the patience and forbearance of Him who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and who sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. But we know that the animal and intellectual enjoyments with which mankind in their apostate state content themselves, are fleeting; that the capacity for deriving any share of happiness from them decays with the decay of life; and that even at the time when this capacity is unimpaired, and those enjoyments most abound, one such view of the holiness and perfection of the eternal God as would allow the light of truth to strike upon the conscience, would in a moment dissolve the charm, and convert into wormwood and gall all the streams of earthly enjoyment. This awful disclosure must take place at death, when the sinner will find himself surrounded with the perfections of that great and holy Lord God, of whose character and government, till then, he has been willingly ignorant, blazing for ever around him in the demonstration of their avenging justice, and awakening within him a worm that will never die, and a fire that will never be quenched :—in an eternity so full of the manifest presence of God, that he cannot for a moment flee from him, that he cannot cease to think about him, that God cannot in all the glory of his character but be fully known to him, and in an eternity
where there is no mixture of good and evil, but where all are either elevated to perfection and happiness, or remain in a state of sin and misery for ever.
But while sin, by a natural and necessary consequence, thus leads to misery, the misery of which it is productive is greatly increased by the judicial inflictions of a penal kind which sin deserves. If the act of disobedience to the will of God, and of estrangement from him, does involve the sinner, independently of any interposing power from without, in sorrow and in suffering, how inconceivably must the sorrow and suffering be augmented when inflicted as the expression of divine displeasure, and as the punishment of sin. “Who knoweth the power of thine anger! even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.” We know him that hath said, “ Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense saith the Lord.” “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The natural consequences of sin, consisting in the loss of the divine favour, in remorse and horror of conscience, in hardness of heart and blindness of mind, and in the corruption of the whole nature, are also penal consequences, and are alike unavoidable and necessary.-That the whole punishment which sin deserves and requires is infinite, and that between sin and its adequate punishment there exists a connexion not arbitrary, but fixed and inseparable, á very little reflection on the character of God, on the nature of sin, and on its tendency and effects in regard to the honours of the Deity, and the interests of the universe, will satisfy us.
SECTION II. — Grounds on which this Connexion is
He against whom all sin is committed is the Fountain of infinite purity and perfection; in contrast with the brightness of whose spotless holiness the heavens are unclean, and the resplendent glories of cherubims and seraphims are obscured and darkened. He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity. Dwelling in the light of his uncreated and eternal purity, all moral defilement must be infinitely abhorrent in his sight. In his nature, therefore, there must be an unalterable opposition to sin; indignation in the exercise of his hatred against it; and possessing the power of making his displeasure felt and known, all his attributes of justice, and truth, and holiness, the honour of his greatness and majesty as God, the sanctions of his law, and his authority as the supreme moral Governor and Lawgiver of the universe, require that he should award to the sinner the desert which is meet. Exalted as Head over all, and as the common Parent of all that lives, he cannot suffer that to go unpunished which is subversive of the interests of all his dominions, and which, by diffusion, might ultimately destroy the happiness of every creature. That this is the direct tendency of all sin is evident from its nature and its bearings in reference to God and to all dependent beings. In regard to ourselves, it deforms the excellency of the nature which was designed for immortality, obliterates the holy image of God, and turns into an instrument of rebellion that which was designed to be for glory and honour. In regard to God it is a violation of his righteous law, and a denial or contempt of his authority,—it is an assumption of the independency and right to govern which exclusively belong to Him ; it is a slighting of the power, and wisdom, and good. ness, and truth of the Deity, it is a virtual imputation of falsehood to the threatenings of his displeasure against transgression; and it is the exercise of a deep-rooted hatred to his character, and government, and throne. In regard to the universe, sin is a breach of its order and harmony; an attempt in defiance of omnipotence to subvert its prosperity and happiness, to spread the revolt that has covered a part with guilt and dishonour over the whole; to involve every intelligent being in a course of apostasy and alienation from God, and all the inhabitants of his dominious in ruin and in death. Every single act of transgression implies this much, and infinitely more than our earthly and impaired understandings can comprehend, and must surely be pronounced, even by us, to be “ deserving of God's wrath and curse, both in this life, and in that which is to come.” Its desert is thus the ground which renders the connexion between sin and suffering so fit, invariable, and necessary.
If sin deserves punishment, it is but meet that it should be punished as it deserves. If the spirit of enmity in the sinner against the character and happi. ness of God be culpable to an extent inconceivable to us, is it not proper that He who can estimate the guilt of a rebel against Him who is infinitely holy and great,