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Reb. W. Miller.
We are thankful to learn that with the cold weather the health of our beloved brother Miller continues to improve, and that he is able to defer his departare from India till February or March. Writing from Cuttack on the 10th of December, he says, “I have just sent the last portion of MS. of Fulfilled Prophecy to brother Brooks, and hope three or four more proofs will finish the work. One object of my lingering on has been to see this through the press, which, apart from the Bible, is one of the most important works published in Oriya. In addition to the fulfilment of prophecy there is a valuable appendix on the date, genuineness, and authenticity of the Gospels.”
foreign Letters Receibed.
BERHAMPORE-J. G. Pike, Dec. 13.
--H. Wood, Dec. 7.
-Mrs. Wood, Dec. 7. CUTTACK-J. Buckley, D.D., Dec. 3.
CUTTACK-W. Brooks, Dec. 8.
W. Miller, Dec. 10.
Received on account of the General Baptist Missionary Society from December 16th,
1878, to January 15th, 1879.
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General Baptist Societies.
I. FOREIGN MISSIONS.—TREASURER: W. B. BEMBRIDGE, Esq., Ripley, nr. Derby
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On Wrath and Auger in God and Men.
BY REV. DR. UNDERWOOD.
The reverent and unsophisticated reader of the Bible accepts its testimony, on every topic of which it treats, with implicit faith. But some of its present day readers have imbibed so strong an antipathy to the very notion of God as a wrathful and an angry Being, that they either reject the Bible teaching, which so represents Him, or they regard it as figurative and hyberbolical.
It must be acknowledged that the language of Scripture concerning God abounds with anthropomorphisms-ascribing to Him human parts and passions—such members of the body and such affections of mind as belong to ourselves. And it is easy to see that no other descriptive words could so well reveal Him to us. If the inspired writings did not attribute to Him the seeing eye, and the listening ear, we could form no proper conception of His presence in every place, and of His perfect acquaintance with all persons and things. Or if no mention were made of the arm of God, the hand of God, and the finger of God, we should have no clear idea of the power and skill by which He performs His wonderful works. These analogous names, and figurative phrases are indispensable to us, and they denote and represent not fictions but realities, things which are as distinguished from things which are not. He has a mighty arm. Strong is His hand, and high is His right hand.
The moral perfections of God are as real and obvious as those which we denominate His natural properties. He is said to be kind and good, gracious and merciful, manifesting pity and conferring gifts and benefits. These attractive and endearing revelations of God culminate in the simple and sublime statement that “God is love." But the divine benevolence is not indiscriminating and all absorbing. It operates variously toward different moral agents, who are accountable to Him as the Supreme moral Governor, otherwise it would leave no scope for that first requisite in every ruler—impartial justice. “He that rules over men must be just.” How necessary, then, that the divine Ruler should be 80. Justice and benevolence may co-exist in the same Being, but they are not identical. The one appears in its antagonism with what is evil; the other in its approval of what is good. He who makes no distinction in feeling and action toward vicious and virtuous men may be said to be practically indifferent to both vice and virtue. Such indifference can never be imputed to God. The law which is not merely recorded in His word, but which is shewn to be written in our hearts, as the guiding principle of His government, and as the standing rule of human conduct, proves His regard for moral distinctions. And the penalty which He has attached to the violation of His own law, while casting
GENERAL BAPTIST MAGAZINE, MARCH, 1879.- VOL. LXXXI.-N. S. No. 111
no doubt on His benevolence, is a convincing demonstration of His righteousness.
Now that penalty, which in various kinds of suffering, is actually inflicted on evil-doers, is called the wrath of God; and the disposition of the divine mind toward the subjects of that wrath is called His anger. But we must not suppose that the wrath of God, and the anger of God, are merely figurative phrases, analogus to the eye and the ear, the arm and the hand
of God. They denote something real, and dreadful too. And this dreadful reality is expressed by many names in different parts of Scripture. It is a “curse” which devoureth the earth ; a “fire” by which its inhabitants are burned; a “fury, which comes forth like fire, and burns that none can quench it because of the evil of their doings; it is “indignation" poured out upon them ; it is “ deliverance into the hand of brutish men, and skilful to destroy;" it is “ a day of vengeance,” burning as an oven, and leaving those that do wickedly neither root nor branch. In New Testament diction the penalty for those who offend, and those who do iniquity, is to be “cast into a furnace of fire, where shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth ;” it is “ to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched ;” it is to be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord;" it is to be “tormented day and night forever.” Effects so direful as these must have an adequate efficient cause, and that cause is distinctly declared to be the divine anger. Every objection to the operation of such a cause ought to be silenced by the assertion that “God is angry with the wicked every day ;” or with the fuller and more fervid declaration,“ God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious: the Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies."
This disposition of the divine mind toward the disobedient and incorrigible, and the determination of the divine will to "show His wrath and make His power known upon them,” of which we are so clearly apprised in words, have been demonstrated by innumerable facts in the history of our offending race. As the eloquent Chalmers says in one of his sermons, “ the cares, the heart-burnings, the moral discomforts, often the pining sickness, or cold and cheerless poverty; more largely and palpably still the fierce contests unto blood and mutual destruction, even among civilized men; and, lastly, the unsparing and relentless death which sweeps off generation after generation, and in like ghastly triumph, whether among the abodes of the prosperous or unhappy, after the brief subsistence of a few years, lays all the varieties of human fortune in the dust—these bespeak, if not a malignant, at least an offended Deity.” The ways of God are but a confirmation of the words of God; and they conjointly prove that while “ His hand is upon all them for good that seek Him, His power and His wrath are against all them that forsake Him.” Not only is He angry with the sin which men do, but His wrath rests upon them for the doing of it. His judicial sentence, as supreme Ruler of the universe, curses ever, and curses only, him “who continueth not in those things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
Yet the wrath which the Scriptures attribute to God, and which His
ON WRATH AND ANGER IN GOD AND MEN.
governmental acts exemplify, is denied or doubted by not a few who profess to know Him, and who speak on His behalf. Their difficulty is to reconcile such a quality in Him with His love and His purity, and His perfect blessedness. That He is benevolent and holy and happy they firmly believe; but reasoning from their experience of what wrath and anger are in themselves and other men, they cannot see how they can dwell in God without interrupting His love, impairing His purity, and lessening His bliss. Now this difficulty may originate in a false assumption, viz., that human dispositions, which are said to be in God also, must be as imperfect in their nature, and as painful in their effects in Him, as in us. If this assumption were true we might just as rationally deny that He loves, approves, and rejoices, as that He hates, condemns, and is displeased. To single out that which is the direct opposite of anger—the affection we call love is in us a compound and yet most imperfect affection. It may not be spurious or misplaced. It may be as genuine and as discreet as is possible to creatures who are inherently imperfect; but even then it may prove a disturbing, if not a tormenting passion. For neither complacency nor ecstasy is felt by the truest and the most ardent lover unless his love is reciprocated, and the object of it is fully enjoyed.
Anger may be as proper a disposition toward some persons and things as love is toward others; and there may be no more moral imperfection or mental disquietude in cherishing the first than in indulging the second. But because we can neither hate nor love without some admixture of sinfulness, and some probable loss of enjoyment, we must not conclude that it is also thus with God. In Him everything is perfect, and His anger is as much so as His love. In hating all workers of iniquity, when rebuking them in His wrath, and chastening them in His hot displeasure, He is as truly good as in “ blessing the righteous, and in crowning them with favour as with a shield.” The peccant accompaniments of the purest human passions must be separated, in our thoughts, from all the dispositions of the Deity.
Human anger is peculiarly prone to various faults from which divine indignation is entirely free. Our displeasure is often quite groundless. We are angry with brethren" without a cause." And so liable are we to quarrel with unpreventible occurrences that it is necessary, in any time of irritation, to be met with the question, “Doest thou well to be angry?" Causeless anger is most culpable; we ought, therefore, to distinguish it from that for which there are true grounds and sufficient reasons. When those true grounds exist there is no merit in refraining from it. Indeed it has been wisely said that "anger is one of the sinews of the soul : he who wants it hath a maimed mind, and must needs halt. Nor is it good to converse with such as cannot be angry, and, with the Caspian sea, neither ebb nor flow." Yet he that will be angry and sin not, let him be angry at nothing but sin. This may be confidently predicated of God, that He is never offended except by sin, and never angry with
any but sinners. His very wrath is therefore holy, and His indignation is just.
The wrath of man is often faulty from its very quickness. Those who knew both human nature and the will of God, have given us cautions against this. “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry.” “A
bishop must be blameless as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry.” “Christian love is not easily provoked,” goes not into a sharp fit, or paroxysm. Some are as inflammable as a heap of tinder on which the spark fell in former days for the kindling of a light; and the slightest collision is like the striking of the flint upon the steel. Even Paul and Barnabas had so sharp a contention that they “departed asunder.”
“The discretion of a man deferreth his anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.”
The divine anger is not precipitate. God is “slow to anger :" enduring with much “long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”
Human anger is often out of all proportion to the provocation. We make a man an offender for a word, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought. We are mortally angered at venial faults, and in few things are we more unreasonable than in the measure of our wrath. In some it is carried so far as to become eggregious folly, and in others it is even a short madness. “A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty, but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both.” It may be confidently affirmed that God's anger never exceeds the sinner's deserts; but that, on the contrary, it falls far below what is due to the disobedient. “He being full of compassion forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not yea many a time turned He His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath.” But if “ He exacteth less than our iniquity deserveth,” let us not run into the irrational belief that He is not angry at all.
When human anger is cherished and indulged, it is likely to degenerate into malice, and we may watch for opportunities to be revenged on our foes. One of the ablest theologians of his age, John Damascenus, distinguished the several kinds of anger by the three names, bilis, iracundia, and infensio. The first, he says, has beginning and motion, but presently passes off, like an excess of bile. The second lodges and lingers in the memory. But the third leads on to revenge. Another mediæval divine compares one sort of anger to fire in stubble, a second sort to fire in iron, and a third to a latent fire which never shows itself but by the consumption of that on which it rages. Aristotle ranks wrathful men as the sharp—the bitter-and the implacable. If the first be the best, the last is the worst of the three.
The anger of God may not be analysed by us, nor may we be able to understand it and describe it. But we can hardly err in saying that it has no such element in it as malice or ill-will. Sometimes, indeed, His servants were inspired to pray to Him as a “God to whom vengeance belongeth.” It is also clearly written, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay, saith the Lord.” Yet he is not unrighteous when He taketh vengeance. And His anger is retained no longer than while the rebellion which provokes it is persisted in and renewed.
I am well aware that the subject of this prelection has become so unpopular that few persons may deign to read my paper. And some who are not averse to the subject, but are willing to consider it impartially, may be armed with objections to the belief that wrath and anger do exist in God. One of these objections I notice before