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APRIL 15, 1831.
SERMON. ISAIAH, xlv. 7.--I form the light, and create darkness; I make
peace, and create evil: I, the Lord, do all these things. “These words are a part of a prophecy concerning the great conqueror of the Assyrian empire and deliverer of Israel out of captivity in Babylon, addressed to him by name, two hundred years before he was born.” vs. 1–7. “Thus saith the Lord to his annoiated, to Cyrus, whose right band I have bolden to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the twobarred gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, who call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel: For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name; I bave surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I, the Lord, do all these things.”
These declarations of Jehovah, are made in opposition to the tenets of the Magi, a religious sect of Persia, among whom his ancient people dwelt, and by whose doctrine they were exposed to be corrupted. In order to account for the origin of evil, which has ever been a perplexing subject to such as were destitute of divine revelation, or unwilling to receive its instructions, these Pagans taught, that there are two eternal, self-existent beings, "of equal power, but of directly opposite dispositions; the one the author of all good, the other the author of all evil.” Nothing can be more absurd than such a doctrine: and that it should ever have been invented and believed by rational beings, is one among a thousand proofs of the native blinda ness of the human heart. Upon supposition of the existence of two co-eternal and equally powerful beings, of opposite characters, it is manifest that they must have been forever at war with each other, and must forever have restrained each other from doing either good or evil. In opposition to this doctrine, as repugnant to reaSOD, as it is dishonorable to God, the declarations in our text and context, are made: “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me—I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: 1, the Lord, do ull these things."
I shall endeavor to explain and confirm the meaning of the declaration of the One only living and true God, in the passage before us.
In explanation of what is divinely declared in the text, it may be observed, that, the word light, literally taken, signifies that medium by which material objects are seen with our bodily eyes; and darkness, in the literal sense, is the absence of this light. But, as “light is sweet, and it is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun," and as darkness is uncomfortable and many ways disadvantageous to us; so these terms are frequently used to express joy and sorrow, happiness and misery of any kind. Thus, Psalm, xcvII. 11. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Psalm, cxii. 4. "Unto the upright, there ariseth light in the darkness." And in Samuel, 11. 1, 2. “I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath: He bath led me and brought me into darkness, but not into light.”. Nothing is more common than this metaphorical use of the terms light and darkness; by which are meant comfort and trouble, prosperity and adversity.
By these expressions are also frequently meant, moral good and evil, boliness and sin. Thus the term light is used in Matt. v. 16. “Let your light so shine before men, &c. And thus the term darkness is used, in Eph. v. 11. “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness-,?? Thus both the terms are used, in I John, v. 6. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not speak the truth.”
It appears then, that whatever is calamitious or sinful, is expressed, in sacred scripture, by darkness; and that all kinds of good are signified by light.
Peace is also a word of very extensive in port. Taken in every view of it, both internal and external, it comprehends almost every thing that is desirable. Our Savior expresses the whole legacy, which he willed to his disciples, by this one word: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you.” Evil, we all know, is one of the most common words for both sin and misery.
There is nothing in the text, or the connexion, to limit the meaning of the very universal terms in which it is expressed. On the contrary, the words light and darkness, peace and evil, are plainly here used in their most unrestrained signification. It is the evident design of this whole passage, to set forth, in the most forcible manner, this truth, that all things and events, not excepting the actions of men, whether good or bad, are subject to the providence and under the direction and government of God.'*
The words used in our text to show the concern which God has in light and darkness, peace and evil, are very strong and express
See Dr. SHALLBI's Sermon's, in loco.
ive. To form, to create, to make, and to do, seem to comprebend all that can be implied in the divine counsel and agency. How could it be said, with the least propriety, that God forms the light, and makes peace, unless his purpose and agency are concerned in producing all the good, both natural and moral, that takes place in the world? And, on the other hand, how could it be said, with the least propriety, that God creates darkness and evil, unless bis purpose and agency are equally concerned in producing all the evil, both natural and moral, that takes place in the world? Without the least intimation of any 'exception as to darkness and evil, the divine declaration is repeated, in emphatic terms, “I, the Lord, Do all these things.'
The plain and unequivocal meaning of our text, is, that the One only living and true God is the primary, designing and efficient cause of all things that exist, and all events that take place, whether in the patural or moral world. He created the earth and all the creatures and things in it, with all their properties, powers and faculties. He constantly upholds them all by his hand, and governs and moves them in all their motions, operations, and actions. They continue to exist, because bis creative power is constantly exerted. They more, because He moves them. They act, because He acts upon them. He is as really and as immediately the efficient or producing cause of one thing, as of another-of darkness, as of light-of, evil, as of peace. There is no God, no First Cause, and strictly speaking, no Efficient Cause, besides Him. Such appears to be the import of Jehovah's solemn declaration in the text.
Hor God operates, in causing either natural or moral good, and in causing either natural or moral evil, is beyond our comprehension: but that He does operate efficiently, and equally, in the production of both, is the great truth which lies upon the face of the passage before us. He sometimes works by means, and sometimes without means, both in the natural and moral world: but whether He works with, or without means, it is He that works. His agency is equally concerned, whatever may be the mode of operation, the means used, or the effects produced. If means are employed; He forms, employs, governs, and actuates them. Means and endshave no connection but what God establishes between them, by his purposes and operations. So that it holds good, universally, that He forms the light and makes peace, creates darkness and evil, and dnes all these things.
The doctrine of the universal Providence and agency of God, which is so plainly taught in the text, is agreeable to right reason, and is abundantly confirmed by other passages of sacred scripture.
That an eternal, self-existent and intelligent Being created the world, with all its productions and inhabitants, is demonstratable from the light of nature. It is equally a dictate of reason, that all created beings and things are constantly dependent upon the Creator for their continuance in existence. It requires the same power to uphold, as to create. Nothing can be more absurd, than to suppose that God has communicated one of his own essential attributes, and
made a creature capable of continuing in existence, even if He himself should cease to be. And to suppose that any created being or thing can move without the agency of the Creator, implies, either that it is self-moved, --which involves the absurdity of its having one motion before the first-or moved by some cause independent of God which involves the Manichean absurdity of two self-existent Beings.
The universal Providence and agency of God, may be argued from his divine perfections. He is Omniscient, and foreknew all things from eternity; which implies that they were certainly future: but what was there to make them so, besides his own purpose and agency? God is All wise: before he began the work of creation, therefore, he must have formed a plan, comprehending all creatures, things and events. He is unchangeable; and, therefore, must have foreseen and foredetermined wbatsoever comes to pass. God is a being of perfeci goodness; and must, therefore, have determined to produce whatever is best on the whole, and to prevent whatever is not for the greatest good.
These conclusions of reason, are confirmed by a multitude of plain and express passages of sacred scripture; a few only of which, will now be quoted. It is written in Psalm, xxxii. 11. “ The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” In Prov. xvi. we read, " The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof, is of the Lord.—A man's heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps.” The prophet Amos interrogates, “ Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” The Apostle writes, Rom. ix. 34; and Eph. 1. 11; "Of him, and through him, and to him are all things, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
That all morai good, or holiness in men, is produced by divine agency, is believed to be the doctrine taught by the apostle, when he says to the Philippians, “ It is God who worketh in you both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure.” As expressly, and more frequently is it asserted in scripture, that divine agency is concerned in the production of moral evil, or sin. It is repeatedly said, that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. We read, that God turned the heart of the Canaanites to hate his people-hardened the spirit of Sihon, and made his heart obstinatemoved David to number Israel-and that he fashioneth the heart of every one of the children of men. We are told, that the crucifiers of Christ did what God's hand and counsel had determined-and that he hardeneth whom he will.
The passages to which I have alluded, correspond with the general tenor of sacred scripture, and corroborate the doctrine so plainly and positively asserted in our text, that the one God is the first and efficient cause of all things, whether natural or moral, good or evil.
[To be concluded.]
REGENERATION. The following Editorial Remarks should have been appended to the Essay of Philalethes, in our last Number; (See page 61,) but were mislaid. We still insert them, as expressive of some of our views of the subject.
The doctrine of regeneration is one of vital importance in the Christian system. It stands inseparably connected with all the doctrines of grace. Every one's creed, in all its most material points, will be shaped according to his views of the necessity, nature, and efficient cause of regeneration. Errors on this subject, if any can be, are fundamental. Most of the Antinomian and Arminian leaven which is diffusing itself through the mass of the prevalent Orthodoxy of the day, proceeds from a misunderstanding or perversion of this scriptural doctrine. Those, who suppose the heart to be a dormant priociple, which is the source of voluntary exercises, infer that regeneration is a physical change, in which the subject is passive, and consequently, tbat sinners are destitute of natural ability to make themselves a new beart, and have nothing to do but to use means, seek and strive, with such hearts as they have, and wait God's time to produce in them a new beart by the supernatural or miraculous operations of his spirit. This is the Antinomian leaven, which neutralizes the demands of the divine law, and turns religious experience to selfish affection.
On the other hand, those who, supposing the heart to consist of voluntary exercises, imagine that it cannot be subject to any influence, except that of motives and moral suasion, without destroying moral
agency, infer that men may and do make such a use of the means of regeneration, in the exercise of a self determining power, as is infallibly followed by a saving change of heart. This is Arminian leaven, more widely spread by men of greater note, than the other; but which excludes the idea of special grace from the regeneration of sinners, and inflates religious experience with spiritual pride and self-sufficiency.
From both these erroneous representations of the doctrine of regeneration, we are happy to perceive that Philalethes, in his communications, is equally free. We are glad that one, whose ideas are so correct and clear, and who is capable of expressing them with such perspicuity, has taken up his pen; and we hope he will not lay it down, till he has pursued the subject iato all its ramifications.
We do not think that our good Brother of the Mirror, needs apprehend that very “beneficial results” will not follow from the disquisitions of his Correspondent, although their character may be somewhat "metaphysical.” Metaphysical they must necessarily be, on a subject which so deeply involves “the consideration of the intellectual and moral powers of man.” The science of mind (which is hut another name for the Metaphysical or Intellectual philosophy) has much to do with every "religious topic" relating at all to the capacities, characters and actions of moral agents. And