« הקודםהמשך »
the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” by the glorious Gospel.
The word of God is but the expression of his purpose ; is not of any private interpretation; is not to be limited to any one time, but must have the same wide range with his works and his providence, “ declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsels shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. xlvi. 10).
The purpose of God in all his revelations is to make himself known. For this end all things were formed; and in knowing and making known the Creator, the intelligent creation attains its end and happiness. The Scriptures represent the whole creation as having been formed at first “ very good :" they also declare how, by the sin of man, misery was brought, not on himself alone, but on the whole creation ; which was formed for him, of which he was the master-piece, and of which he had been constituted the ruler. To one ignorant of the Scriptures, the present state of things must be an inexplicable enigma. Not only are the most amiable of mankind exposed to the cruelty and oppression of the reckless and the strong, but the whole animal creation is groaning under miseries apparently undeserved and unaccountable; and the very earth itself, in its volcanoes and its earthquakes, its barren mountains and trackless wastes, its marshes and its forests, exhibits disorder, convulsion, and ruin. The seasons, again, and climates,--the very air we breathe, its pestilences, its whirlwinds and its storms,-give signs of the wrath of Heaven; for which an heathen must have been at a loss to account, still more to expiate and avert. The difficulty, too, must have been increased, rather than diminished, by his observing a strong remedial principle at work continually; the barren rock mouldering down into a fertile soil, vegetable life encroaching on the sandy wastes and climbing the sides of the volcanic crater. And this difficulty did, we know, lead some of the old philosophers to suppose that there were two antagonist and equally balanced principles constantly at work ; each striving for mastery, and neither able to prevail ; but how balanced, or why neither prevailed, was beyond the reach of their speculations.
All these mysteries are resolved by the Scriptures : we are there taught, not only that man was himself created perfect, the representation of God to the world ; and that every created thing was
1 very good, over which he, as the vicegerent, should exercise dominion; but also that his daily food was provided by the Lord, which he might eat without toil. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man that he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. Ånd the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree
of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” So the fruit of the trees was his food, provided to his hand by his bountiful Creator, of whom he would thus be reminded in every meal he ate. But man was a living soul, a reasoning being ; endowed with a will enabling him to refuse the evil and choose the good ; and this will he was required to exercise under the direction of his Creator, and daily to give proof thereof by not eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The will of man enabled him to choose the good and refuse the evil : God only truly knows what is good, what evil. He had told man that eating of the forbidden tree was not good, but certain evil, whose consequence should be death; yet man chose the evil. So that man's first crime included not only disobedience, but arrogance in the extreme: for, the knowledge of good and evil requiring perfect acquaintance with all possible circumstances, the omniscient God alone possesses it; and the tempter spake a conditional truth in saying, “ Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil;” and in disobeying, they assumed that they knew what was good better than God. Their folly is demonstrated in every possible way: shame and drudgery to himself, till he should return to the dust; and a niggard soil, to support a wearisome life." And the Lord God said, Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field : in the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." It is important to observe, that the food of man is now changed : while he kept the commandment, the trees planted by God supplied him spontaneously with food; but on his transgression he is doomed to exercise his fancied knowledge of good and evil, by, toiling the earth for his daily bread,—and he is removed from the garden of Eden, lest he put forth his hand and eat of the fruit of the trees, and live without labour.
Such is the present condition of man and the creation : “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom. viii. 22). And we introduce this brief summary in order to keep the subject together, that we may the better trace out the deliverance from this “bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God;" for which purpose we take up these few points of doctrine : 1. The eternal Power of the Godhead shewn in the act of creation; 2. The great Love of God in the blessedness of the creation; 3. The Stability of the creature only secured by looking to its Creator for wisdom and strength; 4. Its immediate Fall when trusting in its own sufficiency; 5. The Hope which supports it under its present bondage of corruption; and, 6. We der
duce from the whole that the passing through all these conditions was necessary to bring man and the whole creation into that state of willing and cheerful subjection to the law of the Creator, by which alone he can be the image or manifestation of God.
Power is the idea of the Godhead first acquired, being the attribute first manifested : and this has led some to derive the Hebrew name of God from a root denoting power. But there must exist in the mind of God some principle which calls power into exercise ; which principle is love; “ God is love” (1 John iv. 8): and hence others make love the primal attribute of God. But both the love and power are exercised in perfect wisdom: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way; I was set up from everlasting” (Prov. viii. 22). So that to call any attribute first, or chief, in the Godhead, is incorrect; for in him they are all co-eternal together, and co-equal,-each one implying the existence of the others. But though all are from the beginning co-existing in the purpose of God, they must be manifested in succession to the intelligent creation, and an apparatus provided by means of which the manifestation
may take place. This machinery is the creation, and man its head and interpreter; by his animal frame connected with the material world, by his soul connected with the spiritual; and therefore, by their reciprocal actings upon each other within himself, able to interpret their separate relations: as God, the object of all worship ; and man, the worshiper: as Creator, the independent origin of being; and creature, separate, yet dependent. It is this which gives to the external world its true value and place. We do not value it aright until we see in it the materials for spiritual instruction : we give it not its true place till we make it the frame-work and the alphabet of the Gospel. Under this impression, we shall endeavour to shew that the history of creation and providence in the Scriptures not only exemplifies in facts the spiritual experiences of every believer, but that the order in which they occur in the history is the order in which they arise in the believer's soul; and their relative degree of prominency the same in both cases. That God is Power, Love, and Wisdom, we learn from the creation; and we need next to be taught that these are not in the creature, but in the Creator; and his separateness or objectiveness we learn by the Fall. This, shews what the creature is when left to itself, and proves that all, who stand, owe it not to their own inherent strength, but to God, who sustains them. The fall of the creature also gives place for the manifestation of those attributes which an unfallen being knows not in his own experience—as, mercy, long-suffering, condescension, grace, and all the unutterable wonders of redeeming love-differing in the experience of each individual, and for the present secret and concealed, but which shall in the ages to
come manifest, in their open disclosure, the manifold and infinite grace of God: when the sinner shall be left without excuse, and the whole universe be constrained to acknowledge that hell itself is a demonstration of the love of God ; that it is no arbitrary infliction, but the necessary condition of unconformity to God; a part of the same plan of boundless love ; and all growing out of the necessarily inherent, unalterable conditions of Creator and creature, unchangeable and changeable, selfexistent and dependent.
With Man, the whole creation fell; and when his redemption takes effect, it too shall be redeemed : this is the argument of Rom. viii. 18–39. The “hope set before us” is joint heirship with Christ: “ That we may be also glorified together” (ver. 17). Now, in comparison with this glory, present sufferings are as nothing, whether in ourselves or in the creation. For the creation, which was made subject to vanity, not by its own fault, waits in hope of deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God; and we ourselves also, though having the first-fruits of the Spirit, wait for a like
a deliverance at the resurrection : both parties saved by hope of things not yet seen, and waiting with patience for them.
The fall of man and the creation having demonstrated the difference between Creator and creature, the weakness of the creature, and its helplessness; it is now prepared to look for help out of itself, and to re-ascend by successive steps to union with God, which it had lost by the Faļl. To accomplish this the great plan of redemption was devised, which we have now to trace out, and shew the mighty agency by which it was effected. It is necessary herein to bear in mind, that the Fall, with all its consequences of sin and misery, is never to be charged on God, so as to make him the author of evil: another man must therefore be shewn, placed in the same, or still more difficult circumstances, and yet not falling; lest it should be supposed that Adam fell because he had not sufficient strength to stand ; or that an unforeseen contingency happened ; that God was not all-wise and all-powerful. To give this demonstration was the work of Christ in the flesh; to enable his people to do the same,
; is his office now; and to glorify them together with himself is the future consummation of all, the Gospel. What we look for is, not merely repairing the injuries of the Fall, or reinstating man in paradise with a restored and happy creation, never again to fall : 'it is all this ; but it is more,-it is a triumph over sin and death, not their mere cessation ; it is restitution by renovation, by regeneration : a new order of things, from which fallibility will be excluded ; not by any fatality, or by annihilating will and choice in the creature, but by such a train of preparation as brings about, in each partaker of that new order of
things, a voluntary subjection of his own will to the will of God, and a realization of that paradox to the natural man, “ in whose service is perfect freedom.” This preparation is made in the preaching of the Gospel ; and we who live thus late in time, and have seen so much of the preparatory work accomplished, can from this position look back on all God's dealings towards man, and discern their bearings on the glorious hope set before us in the Gospel, the hope of the completion and manifestation of His purpose in creation and providence. We would now endeavour to trace out, how every doctrine of the Gospel, and every experience of the believer's soul, is shewn forth in some great fact in the history of the world ; that there is, in short, a world within us corresponding to the world without us; and that the matured Christian has realized in the course of his short life a series of experimental doctrines, following that order of succession which is recorded in facts in the history of the world. But this is so vast a subject that neither our limits nor our abilities allow us to give more than a rough outline in the present paper; and we shall take up some of the separate portions, and expand them, at a future time.
All the great acts of God are for the end of manifesting himself in different aspects; of recording in some indelible facts those doctrines which are essential to salvation; and which he therefore makes known, not by word only, which depends on the preparation or capacity to receive it; but in deeds, which can neither be doubted of, explained away, nor forgotten. To know God as he is, man must first know himself as he is : the first doctrine, therefore, in a believer's experience of himself, is that of his own utterly fallen and corrupted state : " I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. vii. 18). And the great historic fact which demonstrates this doctrine, is the corruption of the antediluvian world : “ God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually..... God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt : for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Gen. vi. 5–12). The demonstration is given on the largest scale, both in time and in extent, to shew the universality of the corruption in human nature; and that it has no remedial power in itself, but, if left to itself, only becomes worse and worse. Convinced of his ruined and helpless condition, man looks out of himself, and grasps
the promises of God. The first of these gives him hope of deliverance by a Seed of the woman, who shall bruise the serpent's head (Gen. iii. 15). The next gives him hope of the
) extirpation of evil, in the preaching of Enoch: “ Behold, the
Lord cometh, with ten thousand of his saints, to execute, judg- ment upon all” (Jude 14). And Abel's acceptance, and Enoch's