Friday, August 28, 2015

Christianity Without Christ (Part 1)

Christianity Without Christ
by Charles Hodge
 
Originally published in the Princeton Review, April 1876 (Vol. 5, Issue 18).
In one sense of the word, Christianity is the system of truth taught by Christ and his apostles. In this sense the question, what is Christianity? is simply a historical one. It may be answered intelligently and correctly by a man who does not profess to be a Christian, just as he may answer the question, what is Brahmism? or, what is Buddhism?
In another sense, Christianity is that state of one's mind produced by faith in the truths revealed concerning Christ. In this sense, Christianity without Christ is an impossibility. It would be an effect without its proximate cause. Nevertheless, there is a form of religion, widespread and influential, which is called Christianity, in which Christ fails to occupy the position assigned to him in the Bible.
The Bible teaches us, that the same divine person by whom God for whom the universe was created, is the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New. And as natural religion (in the subjective sense of the word) is that state of mind which is, or should be, produced by the revelation of God in the works of nature, and by our relation to him as his rational creatures; and as the religion of the devout Hebrew consisted in the state of mind produced by the revelation of the same God, made in the law and the prophets, and by their relation to him as their covenant God and Father; so Christianity is that state of mind produced by the knowledge of the same God, as manifest in the flesh, who loved us and gave himself for us, and by our relation to him as the subjects of his redemption.
Three things follow from this: first, as the same divine person is the Creator of heaven and Earth, the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New, there can be no inconsistency between the religion of nature, the religion of the Hebrews, and the religion of Christians. The one does not assume that to be true, which either of the others assumes to be false. The only difference is that which arises from increased knowledge of the object of worship, and the new relations which we sustain to him.
The Hebrews, in worshiping Jehovah, did not cease to worship the God of nature; and the Christian, in worshiping Christ, does not cease to worship the God of the Hebrews.
Second, it is impossible that the higher form of religion should be merged into a lower. It is impossible that the religion of a Hebrew should sink into natural religion. That would imply that he ceased to be a Hebrew, that he rejected the revelations of Moses and the prophets, and that he renounced his allegiance to Jehovah as the God of his fathers. In like manner, it is impossible that the religion of a Christian can sink into that of the Old Testament, or into that of nature. That would imply that he ceased to be a Christian; that he rejected or ignored all that the New Testament reveals concerning God and Christ. There could be no true religion in the mind of a Hebrew that was not determined by his relation to Jehovah as his covenant God; and there can be no true religion in the mind of a Christian that is not determined by his relation to Christ as God manifested in the flesh.
Third, the Christian, in worshiping Christ, does not cease to worship the Father and the Spirit. He does not fail to recognize and appreciate his relation to the Father, who loved the world and gave his Son for its redemption; nor does he fail to recognize his relation to the Holy Spirit, on whom he is absolutely dependent, and whose gracious office it is to apply to men the redemption purchased by Christ. In worshiping Christ, we worship the Father and the Spirit; for these three are one — one only living and true God, the same in substance and equal in power and glory. Christ says, I am in the Father and the Father in me. I and the Father are one. He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and therefore, he that worships the Son, worships the Father. Hence, it is written, "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father," but, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life." It is to be remembered, however, that in the mysterious constitution of the Godhead, the second person of the Trinity is the Logos, the Word, the Revealer. It is through him that God is known. He is the brightness of his glory, revealing what God is. We should not know that there is a sun in the firmament, if it were not for his (apaugasma). So we should not know that God is, or what he is, were it not for his Son. "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal him." In having Christ, therefore, we have God; for in him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Standing Use and Authority of the Old Testament (Part 3)

(continued from 8/21/2015)

Conclusion:

Not only is the former part of Scripture necessary for our edification with regard to the meaning of the latter, but we also find that Christ and his apostles assert that the moral precepts of the Old Testament are the will of God abiding for ever, and enforce the keeping of them, as they are there, and there only, handed down to us in the proper form and order. Yea, the expression for the whole sum of duty, embraced in Christ's injunction, " Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," seems to have been taken from, or at least founded upon, that passage in Leviticus 11:44, "Ye shall be holy, for I am holy;" and is repeated by Peter, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." (1 Pet. 1:16). So that not only is the attention of men directed to the tables of the law as they were delivered, and to each command as it appears there singly: "Keep the commandments," but also to all the precepts collectively - to the sum of them all in the very words of the Lawgiver himself in the Old Testament once and again repeated; and, finally, their attention is fixed, by the endearing way in which Christ crowns the Old Testament idea, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." The examples of the Old Testament saints are referred to in the New, implying the standing use of such records for our imitation. The instance of Elijah as an example in prayer (James 5:17). The long catalog of "worthies," is remarkable for their faith (Heb. 11). These and a multitude of similar references take for granted a knowledge of the Old Testament, and clearly show its abiding use to Christians in all ages. Besides, there are some particulars of faith and practice, which are learned from, and can only be fully established by the Old Testament. It contains the sublime account of creation, and subsequently narrates the fall of man. The moral obligation of the Sabbath, of baptism, and of the worship of God in the family capacity; the scriptural institution of marriage and of civil rule, and the nature and importance of federal engagements...cannot, we think, be satisfactorily established but by the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The Old seems to contain the history and prophecy of the church in all time and in eternity too. It furnishes examples of lasting influence and the germ of all doctrines, and it guides us in our devotions at the throne of grace. The New may be regarded as an enlargement on the character and sufferings of Christ, as these were witnessed by his disciples; it unfolds the manner of his life and the matter of his teaching, and declares the nature and design of the ordinances and institutions of the New Testament church. We do not say that because of these things greater importance is to be attached to the New than to the Old, but rather that on all the leading doctrines of the Christian religion, much more enlarged and accurate views are obtained by a careful collation of the whole Word of God. Christians are much indebted to many parts of the Old Testament for elevating ideas of the Deity and directions in his worship. What soul-breathings after God are contained therein, suitable to every age and every clime! ... Some are inclined to overlook certain portions of the Old Testament, and labor under the mistake, that the divine character as therein revealed is far different from that in the New . This error seems to arise from incorrect views of the law and the gospel. The thunders of Sinai and the fearful punishments threatened on offenders are the true representations of God's justice in taking vengeance on those who violate his holy law. The minister of the gospel should see the important use of the Old Testament in giving weight to his warnings, and the sinner should be driven by its threats to flee from the wrath of an angry God to the covert of the covenant. This error arises also from an idea entertained that there are not such gospel invitations and comforts contained in the Old as in the New . But though we have the moral law and its accompanying terrors, we have likewise most lively and encouraging traces of the Covenant of Grace. The sinner finds salvation in the Old as well as in the New ; and the terrors of the law as well in the New as in the Old. The "Sun of Righteousness" is equally the light of both: in the one his benign beams burst forth from amid lowering clouds; in the other the clouds may be said to have passed away, and we behold him fully revealed. Certain it is, that much in the Old should no longer be practiced under the New Testament dispensation, for we are come to a more glorious and spiritual economy; but we do not say that such parts as refer to the past economy are no longer useful. On the contrary they are in many ways indispensable - as they declare still the infinitely holy character of the Most High, the necessity of awe and reverence the most profound in approaching him, and of a strict regard to the divine glory and the welfare of the church in administering civil and ecclesiastical law; and taken in connection with the New , we find most valuable aid and direction from these laws and observances in practice obsolete. In short, they are, so to speak, the mold in which the mind of the Church of God in past and present ages was formed and fashioned. To conclude, God as he is in himself, and as he manifests himself in the display of his perfections in the works of creation, providence, and redemption, is presented in his true character in the Bible, taken as a whole. The God who is our hope, our trust, our all, is pleased to give to man this revelation of himself, and The Power of Truth as the Instrument of Union taken from first to last, the view is connected, perfect, and, we had almost said, unbounded. Isolate from the other part, either the Old or New, and a void is left which all created wisdom never can fill up. The Bible, as we have it, is precious and inestimable. It is dependent in all its parts - a golden chain suspended from the eternal throne, its links secure and inseparable. To vary the figure, it is a mine of knowledge, too deep for man, where every new discovery leads to others more valuable still, and thus we may go on from one degree of Scriptural wealth to another, until we arrive at the source and fountain of all; there to enjoy the riches of his glory.

"This book, this holy book, on ev'ry line
Marked with the seal of high divinity,
On every leaf bedewed with drops of love
Divine, and with the eternal heraldry




Friday, August 21, 2015

The Standing Use and Authority of the Old Testament (Part 2)

(continued from 8/18/2015)

1st Instead of finding fault with the Jews for reading the Old Testament, the very reverse was the case. They are reproved by the Savior for their carelessness in not receiving and acting upon the statements laid down therein. Said he to the chief priests and elders of the people, "Did ye never read in the Scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?” Matt. 21: 42. To the multitude, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words." John 5: 46-47. Whence may we not see the very way in which the Jews are yet to be brought to a knowledge of the truth; not, indeed, by a laying aside or neglect of the Old Testament, but by a reverential study of it, and the blessing of the Spirit accompanying it; and that thus the veil of ignorance shall be removed, and they brought to bow at the feet of the Great Teacher himself? Then shall he say to them like as he did to the two disciples that journeyed with him to Emmaus: "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" Luke 24: 25. Such references plainly intimate not only the necessity and importance of these writings, but stimulate to a continued and close examination of their bearing in order to a cordial reception of the truths which he taught.

2nd When Jesus was tempted of the devil, though he could, by the arm of his omnipotence, have at once hurled him and his legions back whence they came, defeated; yet, strange to say, he suffered the deceiver to confront him - the Innocent One - and taking upon him our infirmities, he employed against Satan the weapons he would have us to wield. He set us an example that we should follow in his steps. By the words of the Old Testament Scriptures did Christ oppose his arch insinuations, thereby inculcating their use, and teaching us not only to resist the devil and he will flee from us; but that these same Scriptures are the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, the weapon of attack in the armor of righteousness provided by the Captain of our salvation.

3rd Not only have we Christ's example, which we should follow, but his plain and pointed command: "Search the Scriptures." John 5: 39. This, of course, at the time in which it was spoken, referred to the Old Testament, and thereby its authority and use are established to all generations.


4th In the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistles, we have 'its perusal commended and enjoined, and its statements introduced to corroborate the truths published. Of the Christians in Thessalonica, it is recorded as exemplary and praiseworthy; they "searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Acts 17: 11. Again, "the righteousness of God without the law" is said to be now " manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;" and this is explained in the next verse to be "the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe," - a righteousness "without the law" in this sense, that our personal obedience has no influence in procuring the sinner's justification, "by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." Rom . 3: 20, 21, 22. And this righteousness of faith then is "witnessed by the law and the prophets" - the usual expression among the writers of the New Testament, for the Old. How important the testimony, both by reason of the witness, which is the Spirit himself, and because of the object, which is Christ with all new covenant benefits for our salvation. We have the Old Testament so interwoven with the apostles' instructions that to separate the two would be to rend and destroy the whole. Their connection is so completely established in the Epistles, their harmony so clearly maintained, that, by neglecting the Old, we render the New , as far as we are concerned, in many places, useless and unmeaning. The Epistle to the Hebrews would be unintelligible without Leviticus—the perpetual reference to the former dispensation renders necessary the continuance of this book for our instruction. Moreover, how could we aright understand the Epistle to the Romans, and the words "atonement," "reconciliation," "blood," &c , without the Pentateuch? Is it not by a constant reference to the Old, and by comparing Scripture with Scripture, that our ideas are properly formed and enlarged? In truth, the distinguishing doctrines of the Church of Christ regarding his substitutionary sufferings, his resurrection, his exaltation, and the exercise of his mediatorial power over the nations, can only be fully proved by having recourse to the Old Testament in connection with the New. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Standing Use and Authority of the Old Testament (Part 1)

This and the following two posts are an article published in the January 1855 issue of the Reformed Presbyterian. No author is named.

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;" and this applies to the Old as well as to the New Testament. The practice of placing these two portions of Holy Writ in contrast, as if to show that the former no longer continues to be a rule of faith and manners, is extremely absurd, and evinces deplorable ignorance of the spirit and tenor of the Scriptures. God is one, he changeth not; and, therefore, his revelations to man exhibit constantly and connectedly his abiding moral character. Although some parts of his Word may, and when necessary for us, do, condescend to the low position, attainments, and habits of those to whom they are committed, or they may respect observances enjoined on the Old Testament church, the obligation of which passes away in the lapse of time; yet we are not to conclude that these are useless or unimportant portions. Far from it, for even in these the authority and character of the one unchanging Jehovah are abundantly evident, and their study assists us in our conceptions of the Most High, and in estimating our duty towards him. Taken as a whole, the authority of the Old is established by the very same argument as that of the New Testament, and the reasoning in the case is, if possible, more manifest and conclusive, and the evidence more overpowering. The writers of the Old Testament appeal to miracles in proof of their mission, and some of these are most wonderful. But waiving this consideration, we may notice that the prophecies contained in many of the books are alone sufficient to establish their divine authority.

1st. The prophecies regarding the Jewish nation are most remarkable, relating to their days of prosperity and adversity, their captivities and returns, their being outcasts among the nations, and their final restoration to their own land. In short, all the particulars of that people's history are recorded with minutest accuracy of detail from the writers' days down along the future; and we have but to read the Old Testament, to this day, in order to know the past, present, and future condition of the Israelitish nation.

2d. The predictions about our Savior are full and varied, and manifest their divine origin. Every trait in his character is fully displayed; all his mediatorial engagements from everlasting or ever the earth was, his unique sufferings, and his unparalleled rewards are unfolded in the Old Testament in the ancient solitary predictions - in a ritual burdened with the announcement of a Savior to come - in the beautifully pure and spiritual Messianic Psalms, exalted in thought to the very throne of the Eternal - in the singularly graphic, but glowing descriptions of enraptured prophets, carried away without and above themselves in heavenly visions. In all, the conceptions as they are presented to us in the Old Testament are not only elevating, they are above all mere human efforts, and divine. And thus presented and accredited, the history of the Covenant of Grace is more full in many respects in the Old than in the New Testament.


3d. The miraculous preservation of these writings is a most powerful argument for their authority. Since they were written, nations great and mighty, that figured in earth's history, have passed away; monuments have crumbled into dust; tomes innumerable have perished in Old Time's withering embrace; and now, in these last days, even his own eventful youth had become shrouded in oblivion, but for these ancient writings, which, dictated and preserved by him who directs all events, have survived all changes - dare we say it - unchanged as their Author. Internally considered, their authority and use cannot be questioned. The grand system of morals which they contain, owes its origin to God alone. It is pure, simple, unsparing and comprehensive, every way manifesting the holy, just, and wise character of the one true and eternal God; and its use and importance are unchanging and constant. The standing, use and authority of the Old Testament are clearly proved from the teaching of Christ and his apostles. They seem to have inculcated most particularly the study of the Bible, in order that the character and doctrines of the Messiah may be properly understood. Not only are the prophets, who foretold Christ, introduced to upbraid their ignorance; but the books of Moses, the Psalms, and every department of the Old Testament are made the basis of their remarks, and brought to bear on the things then being accomplished.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Seeking First the Kingdom of God

The kingdom of God is the prevalence and dominion of righteousness. It means the supremacy of truth, love, and peace. When the passage says, "His righteousness," it is not referring to the imputed righteousness of Christ, but rather to the personal righteousness of the subject of Christ's Kingdom of Grace. It is that quality of character which the law of the kingdom demands, which the Word instills in us, which the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit enables us to attain,—the conformity of the believer to the image of Christ. We are being encouraged to strive after personal piety, as becomes citizens of the Kingdom.

Seeking the Kingdom first does not mean that it is to be the first of a series of things which, when attained, gives place to the pursuit of something else. While the idea of order is not necessarily excluded, what is being emphasized is the idea of importance, priority, or supremacy. If this is done the order will fall in its proper place. To seek first the Kingdom of God is to make it the one thing for which we live. It is to make conformity to, and maintenance of righteousness in our life the supreme consideration in determining everything we do. It is the only thing that concerns our lives about which we have the right to be anxious, and the one thing about which we should be primarily anxious.


We are all too prone to regard the seeking of the kingdom of God as an tedious chore. Perhaps this will account for its not receiving the place in our lives that it should. But we ought to regard it with pleasure. A loyal citizen of an earthly kingdom loves to cherish the prestige of his country's honor, and promote her glory. He counts this a privilege. He does it with enthusiasm. He feels that his honor and his welfare are bound up in the prosperity of his country. If we would lay to heart the truth that our spiritual and eternal welfare is bound up in the reign of righteousness in our lives, if we properly appreciated the benefits and honors of heavenly citizenship, if we realized that God is a fountain of blessedness, and the more we possessed of Him, and the more thoroughly we permitted His kingdom to possess us. the happier we would be, it would inspire us to seek His righteousness with more cheerfulness and liveliness than we often display. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

All Things For the Church

In light of the last 3 posts, I wish to submit the following observations on Ephesians 1:22.

To get the full force of verse 22, we need to back up at least to verse 11, and continue to verse 23. In context, here's how it reads:

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:11-23 – ESV)

Notice, first of all, that verse 11 informs us of God's sovereign control, indeed, His decree, concerning all things. Nothing happens, but it falls within God's decree for His purposes. But verse 22 tells something about this purpose: it is all for Christ as the head of the Church. And it is that idea that I wish to focus on after the last three posts. 

Here is what I wish to bring to our attention. Everything that transpires in this world has reference to the Church. Notice that the passage specifically states all things. Temporal blessing and punishments of nations, good and bad weather, high and low prices, war and peace, all things are worked actively by God for the Church under the headship of Christ. At the risk of being overly technical in such a practical observation, it can be stated this way: Reprobation serves Election.

Before bringing our observations to the present, I wish to use the Old Testament as an illustration. Granted, many things happened in world history that are not recorded in Scripture, but it is quite noticeable that whatever world events that are mentioned in Scripture all have this one feature: they serve the advancement and betterment of God's people. Every empire that rose and fell are all viewed through the lens of their effect on the people of God. And God unhesitatingly claims to use these kingdoms as His tools for blessing or chastising His people. Indeed, the ultimate disaster of the ancient world, the Flood, was for the sake of God's people. The world was made a safer place for righteous Noah and his family. Scripture informs us that the Deluge is a precursor, a type, if you will, of the great Day of Judgment, which will again, make the world a safer place for God's people

Now to the present. The recent US Supreme Court ruling in favor of Sodomy, like its previous ruling endorsing the covenant-breaking evil of divorce and the child-murdering horror of abortion, the rise of ISIS and its evil equivalents, the natural disasters, wars and numerous other perils – all these things are ordained and are being overruled by God for His people.

This should serve two purposes.

First, it should calm the fretting hearts of God's people. The world is not out of control. It is under His control. We can sleep soundly knowing that God is sovereign.

Secondly, this should serve to lead us to repentance. Many of the societal evils we lament have gone on virtually unchallenged in what we call “Evangelicalism.” The statistics regarding premarital sex, adultery, homosexuality, divorce, and abortion among professing Christians are staggering. God will not be mocked. And the previous three posts addressed this very point. If God pours out wrath upon a rebellious nation, it will be primarily because those who are called by His name have caused it to be blasphemed.

For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:24

But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ Ezekiel 36:20

As the previous posts asserted, God may let an individual go unpunished in this lifetime, because He is storing up eternal wrath against him. But the same cannot be said of nations. The nation of America will not go to heaven or hell. Only individuals have a distinct existence in the afterlife. Nations, since their existence is limited to this world, will not go unpunished until the Day of Judgment. And when God pours out the deserved wrath, it will be to vindicate His name which we, by our rebellion, have cause to be blasphemed. “I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the LORD am the Holy One in Israel.” - Ezekiel 39:7

Rather than point the finger at the President, the Supreme Court, Hollywood, or whatever other corrosive influence we can think to blame, we should point the finger squarely at the Church and her apostate behavior. Is it any wonder that the PCUSA and others of her ilk are endorsing sodomy, when the core doctrines of the Christian faith, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, and the Resurrection have been openly scorned in the seminaries and pulpits of the mainline denominations for over a century?

It is in the light of these consideration that Christians should view the world.

 

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Agency of God in the Infliction of Evil (Part 3)

Today we conclude the presentation of this 1837 article from the Reformed Presbyterian.


The universal distress which pervades the land, from south to north, is a loud and renewed call to national repentance. A third time, during a very brief period, God has thus stretched over the land the rod of an avenging and warning providence; saying, "hear ye the rod and who hath appointed it." But, there is no general conviction in the community that sin is the cause of this evil; those who are most deeply involved seem disposed to attribute it to any but the real cause. By one class, the evil is wholly ascribed to excessive speculation; by another, to the maladministration of the executive government. We have no doubt that business has been overdone by excessive speculation; we know that there have been gross acts of maladministration on the part of the executive of the United States. To consider these as the causes of the present calamity is by no means meeting the case: they may, and doubtless have had their influence as means: but the unseen hand of the Almighty has directed the machinery of means for the accomplishment of his own righteous judgment. "O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times." Matt. xvi. 3. "The Lord's voice crieth unto the city." Have wisdom to understand it! True wisdom lies in making a suitable improvement of the judgment, by returning unto him in the exercise of repentance and reformation.

The love of the world – the acquisition of wealth has been rapidly growing for some years past, till finally it has assumed the character of an all-absorbing passion, governing and directing nearly the entire community. At Mammon's shrine, the national homage is paid: while the worship of God is awfully neglected. The god of this world hath blinded the understanding so much that the mass of the population act as if the only end of their being was the acquisition of riches and personal aggrandizement. The things of sense have well-nigh possessed the minds and desires of the present generation to the exclusion of those that are spiritual. Time is thus preferred to eternity; and its passing pleasures to the realities of a blessed immortality. The consequence of such a state of things is a prevailing profligacy of manners—an increase of immorality. Christianity with its duties and obligations, is despised; over-reaching speculation, and fraudulence in business, are practiced or countenanced by the most influential of the community; violence and force assume the authority of law, and not infrequently end in deeds of blood; Sabbath-breaking, dueling, gambling, and theatrical amusements, are common characteristics of the times. And shall not God visit the land because of these things? Will He permit prosperity to be always abused without calling the guilty to an account? Infidelity has obtained a wide and welcome reception, throughout the land; infidel principles are avowed and acted upon, by legislators and rulers, while the truth of God's word is trampled upon by both. The instrument which binds the United States together as one nation is such, as far as religion and morality are concerned, as might be found among a people who knew nothing of the existence of the divine law. The constitution of the United States is infidel; it contains no acknowledgment of God—the Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ, over the nations,—the truth of the Christian religion,—or the obligation of the Holy Scriptures. The United States have by this Compact placed themselves in the fearful condition of being a people without God. 

While referring to national sins as causing judgments, it would be highly culpable to overlook the sin of slave-holding. This is properly a national sin: and one, we are persuaded, that has an intimate connection with the present commercial and other distress. W e shall not no w enter upon the evidence that slave-holding is a national sin ; we only remind our readers, that slavery is recognized the Constitution of the United States, “by bestowing upon the domestic tyrant who holds hundreds of his fellow creatures in bondage, an influence in making laws for free-men proportioned to the number of his own slaves." This alone, would be sufficient to bring home the charge of national guilt. Congress has admitted into the Union slave-holding States; and thus recognized the lawfulness of slave-holding. Congress, which is the national legislature, has full powers over the district of Columbia, and the Territories; yet slavery exists in them; nay more, the district of Columbia is the great slave-market of the United States. And, as if in solemn mockery of the sacred names of justice, liberty and humanity, man—man made in the image of God, is within the very sight of the Capitol, brought under the Auctioneer's hammer, and bid off, like cattle, for dollars and cents! If slave-holding is sinful; and none will doubt it who is not under the influence of interest or prejudice; then, verily is the United States guilty, exceedingly guilty: and God by his providences seems to indicate clearly, that the nation shall not pass with impunity. The crime seems written on the punishment; and cannot be misunderstood by an attentive observer of passing events. The sin of slavery stands pre-eminent among the sins of the land; and to it the present dispensation of Providence has an especial reference.

The friends of humanity have for some time been calling upon the slave-holding states to abolish slavery; the national legislature has been petitioned to exercise the power with which it is invested; to abolish it in the District of Columbia. And what has been the result? The south has been maddened into rage; and Congress has virtually denied the right of petition on the subject. The door has thus been shut against all constitutional redress. The self-interested, and the sycophantick in the north, have made common cause with southern slave-holders. The calls of reason and religion; have been met with passion and brutal violence. Neither southern taskmasters, nor their northern abettors, can now plead ignorance; duty has been set before them, and they have been urged to perform it: yet have they not repented. As God, in his providence, as well as in his word, has been commanding them to let the oppressed go free; and as they have not done it, He is now visiting them with calamity. The cotton crops of the south have failed; the unrequited labors of the slaves have so far, not enriched their masters: when they "looked for much, lo it came to little." The product of those crops was anxiously looked for as the means of liquidating their debts. The northern merchants as well as others who had advanced monies on them have suffered, and are suffering with the planters. Slaves who were readily bought up, at from one thousand to fifteen hundred dollars each, only a year ago, are now selling at four hundred. The immediate consequence of the failure of the crops raised by slave-labor is one general insolvency, from New Orleans to New-York. A few months ago, one firm in the former city failed, and that has been followed by a crowd of others in both cities to the amount of hundreds of millions of dollars. This rapid change from prosperity to adversity ought not, and cannot with safety be overlooked. It has added another, to the many warnings of providence: it is a loud call to the duty of national repentance. If this call is treated as former ones have been, we know not whether God may give another: He may say of this nation as he did of Ephraim; "He is joined to his idols, let him alone" till the cup of iniquity be filled. Nothing but repentance and reformation can save the nation from this doom. Let every Christian know that he has a duty to perform to his country and to his God, in this crisis; it is, to give a public testimony against prevailing national sins.—To proclaim, to all, the duty of repentance. The morals of the people need reformation; prevailing vices must be curbed and put to shame: — the infidelity which has so deeply imbued the civil institutions of the country, both the general and state constitutions, must be eradicated; Christian principles must take the place in these, which they ought always to have occupied, and give a renovated character to the laws and their administration. Public offices should be filled with men of religious character and integrity ; men who instead of taking the lead in immorality should be a terror to evil-doers and a praise to them that do well.—The national disgrace of slave-holding must be wiped off by letting the oppressed go free. The safety of our country and its permanent prosperity depend upon our national repentance and reformation: Sin must be forsaken or the avenging justice of God shall overtake us. "The irreligion of our nation and of our rulers is the source of all our dangers. Other means may become the instruments of our punishment and ruin, but, it is sin that brings them to bear with fatal effect upon us, and which gives its poison to the sting of every earthly calamity. As long as the rulers and the people forget God, He will forget them. Since He is not in all their thoughts, to their own devices they shall be given up, and shall eat abundantly of the fruit of their own evil ways." (The Prospects of Britain, James Douglas) But, repentance, may not yet be too late "Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye unto me with all your heart, and with fasting and with weeping, and with mourning. An d turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Agency of God in the Infliction of Evil (Part 2)


Below is the second part of the article is "The Agency of God in the Infliction of Evil: and Why He Does It." which appeared in August and September 1837 issues of The Reformed Presbyterian. Note well the author's clear grasp of God's dealing with nations. And might we ask whether many Christians are not functional Deists, when we seem to believe that the only Divine retribution there is to expect is in the world to come? 

We continue:

We have now presented our readers with sufficient illustrations of the Agency of God in the infliction of evil; and some of the means by which he inflicts it. We proceed next to inquire why God inflicts evil upon individuals or nations. 

The answer to the inquiry is,—Sin. Sin, is the sole cause of every kind of suffering: individuals and nations despise the authority of God, therefore he afflicts them, We establish this view of the subject by referring to two, of many cases recorded in scripture which shew that sin is the cause of suffering. "So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? Or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee! Or, that there be three days pestilence in thy land? Now advise, and see what answer I shall -return to him that sent me. And David said unto Gad let us fall into the hand of the Lord. So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel, from the morning even till the time appointed: and there died of the people, from Dan even to Beer-Sheba, seventy thousand men." 2 Sam. xxiv. 13, 15. "And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto mo saith the Lord, and also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest, and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city; one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied; yet ye have not returned unto me , saith the Lord. I have smitten you with blasting and mildew; when your gardens and your vineyards, your fig-trees, and your olive-trees increased, the palmer-worm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me , saith the Lord " Amos , iv. 6, 9. 

Thus we learn from scripture, not only that the evils w e have been considering come from God, but also that sin is the procuring cause.—The curse comes not causeless. Men commit sin, therefore the judgments of God are abroad in the earth. 

As it respects the infliction of evil because of sin, there are two distinct ends which God accomplishes,—the one is chastisement, the other is punishment. In the righteous providence of the Ruler of the universe, He punishes impenitent, sinful individuals and nations : while in mercy H e chastises such as are not given over to impenitence and judicial wrath. The Lord Jesus Christ, to who m as Mediator, is committed the dispensation of universal providence, never suffers his ow n people to continue to live at ease in sin. He invariably afflicts them to preserve them from this, and make them sensible of its evil character,—the abominable thing which He hates. "If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments: then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." Ps. lxxxix. 31, 33. The evils, that in providence are sent upon wicked men come in the form of punishment; are part of the judicial wrath of God: and precursors of that ever-during indignation which shall finally overtake impenitent transgressors. The Almighty does not always inflict punishment upon wicked men in this world; sometimes he suffers them to go on in their sins, till the measure of their iniquity be filled up: and in the state of future retribution their sins meet deserved punishment. " Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." The providence of God as it respects nations is different: national sins are always visited with national sufferings in this world. Nations shall have no distinct national existence in the future state of retribution; therefore, the evils to be inflicted upon them, are inflicted in this world. The part which individuals have taken, whether rulers or people, in the sins of a nation, shall like their other sins, if unrepented of, bring upon them the indignation of God. But, besides the accountability of individuals, the nation as a community or a whole, is accountable for its national doings. A nation is a moral person; performs moral acts, and is therefore under moral responsibility to the Governor of the Universe. The revealed will of God is addressed to nations and rulers, as well as to individuals: and transgressions of God's will, where'it is known, shall as certainly bring his judgments upon nations, as upon individuals. That legislators, rulers and judges are not bound to be regulated in their official actings by the law of God, is a principle that involves treason against his government; and is subversive of his authority over mankind.—It is essentially infidel, and in every respect worthy of the modern philosophical scepticism, from which it springs!—a principle that threatens destruction to the very form, as well as power, of true religion. 

Nations being moral persons, are capable of contracting guilt;—contracting guilt, they become liable to punishment; —an d their national existence being restricted to the present life, their national sins can only in this life, meet with national punishment. "Come near ye nations, to hear, and hearken ye people. For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies." Is. xxxiv. 1, 2. "Put them in fear, O Lord, that the nations ma y know themselves to be but men." Ps. ix. 20. 

The evils which God brings upon nations, are sometimes of a corrective kind: national calamities are sent upon them, that they may learn righteousness; and give "glory to the God of heaven." In other cases, the evils which God inflicts upon nations are properly judgments : they continue to rebel against him, though warned and admonished, and finally he destroys them, so that they may not have a name or place among the nations of the world. Where are no w the Chaldean and Assyrian empires? They with many others have long since perished. And, so perish shall every nation that persists in rebellion against God. The instructions of Divine revelation, and the calls of Providence shall not always be despised with impunity : the day of retribution shall overtake every impenitent nation as well as individual. "For behold the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity." Is. xxvi. 21. 

History, whether sacred or common is filled with records of the judgments of God; it tells of nations' guilt, but tells also of their punishments: there is an existing connection between, the one and the other, and blind indeed must we be if we do not recognize it. "The Lord's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod and who hath appointed it." Mic. vi. 9. 

We thus learn, that when God in his providence afflicts a nation it is a characteristic of wisdom to make a practical use of it. "Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it." When national calamity becomes our own lot, there is neither wisdom nor safety, in trying to hide from ourselves or others the cause of God's controversy with us. In the present crisis it is our duty to speak unreservedly. The commercial distress which presses so heavily upon the United States, demands frankness of manner and faithfulness of application. If the country is in a state of suffering, it is because there are reasons for it; the curse comes not causeless, nor do troubles spring from the ground. Faithfulness to God and a regard to the best interests of our country, both urge us to inquire why he afflicts us. That Go d has a controversy with this nation, no seriously minded person will, we presume, deny? although there may be a diversity of opinion as to the particular sin or sins which may be the cause of the controversy. The present calamity is not a solitary judgment; it is one of a series, which have followed each other in rapid and alarming succession. In 1832, the disease of Cholera swept over the land, with all the characteristics of a national judgment; but, this was endured in common with other nations. And, in proportion as it had produced alarm during its continuance, it appears to have been followed by hardness of heart and national impenitency. "I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: yet have ye not returned unto me saith the Lord." Amos , iv. 10. In the close of 1835, the commercial metropolis of the United States suffered immense loss by fire; a whole section of the city was reduced to ruins; nor could the closest enquiry explain its origin. In no other spot of equal dimensions in the empire could so much valuable property have been destroyed by the devouring element. And it is presumed, we do not overstep the bounds of sober interpretation of providence, when we call the conflagration of New-York a national judgment. As a commercial nation the United States was thus smitten on the head: and we may add in the faithful accusation of scripture reproof  "yet have ye not returned unto me saith the Lord." 

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