« AnteriorContinuar »
mit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men, but my mercy shall not de part away from him." So the prophet Jeremiah speaks of the great affliction that God's people of the young generation suffered in the time of the captivity, as being for their good. Lam. iii. 25, &c. But yet these chastisements are spoken of as being for their sín, see especially verses 39, 40. So Christ says, Rev. iii. 19. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." But the words following shew that these chastenings from love, are for sin that should be repented of "Be zealous, therefore, and repent." And though Christ tells us, they are blessed that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, and have reason to rejoice and be exceeding glad; yet even the persecutions of God's people, as ordered in divine Providence, are spoken of as divine chastenings for sin, like the just cor-. rections of a Father, when the children deserve them, Heb. xii. The apostle, there speaking to the Christians concerning the persecutions which they suffered, calls their sufferings by the name of divine rebukes, which implies testifying against a fault; and that they may not be discouraged, puts them in mind, that whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourgeth every son that he receiveth. It is also very plain, that the persecutions of God's people, as they are from the disposing hand of God, are chastisements for sin, from 1 Pet. iv. 17, 18, compared with Prov. xi. 31. See also Psalm Ixix. 4....9.
If divine chastisements in general are certain evidences that the subjects are not wholly without sin, some way belonging to them, then in a peculiar manner is death so, for these reasons :
1. Because slaying, or delivering to death, is often spoken of as in general a more awful thing than the chastisements that are endured in this life. So Psalm cxviii. 17, 18. "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore, but he hath not given me over unto death." So the Psalmist, in Psalm lxxxviii. 15, setting forth the extremity of his affliction, represents it by this, that it was next to death. "I am afflicted, and ready to die : While I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted.” So
David, 1 Sam. xx. 3. So God's tenderness towards persons under chastisement, is from time to time set forth by that, that he did not proceed so far as to make an end of them by death, as in Psalm lxxviii. 38, 39, Psalm ciii. 9, with verses 14, 15, Psalm xxx 2, 3, 9, and Job xxxiii. 22, 23, 24. So we have God's people often praying, when under great affliction, that God would not proceed to this, as being the greatest extremity. Psalm xiii. 3. "Consider, and hear me, O Lord my God: Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death." So Job x, 9, Psalm vi. 1....5, lxxxviii. 9, 10, 11, and cxliii. 7,
Especially may death be looked upon as the most extreme of all temporal sufferings, when attended with such dreadful circumstances, and extreme pains, as those with which Providence sometimes brings it on infants, as on the children that were offered up to Moloch, and some other idols, who were tormented to death in burning brass. Dr. Taylor says, p. 83, 128, S. "The Lord of all being can never want time, and place, and power, to compensate abundantly any sufferings infants now undergo in subserviency to his good providence." But there are no bounds to such a license, in evading eviden ces from fact. It might as well be said, that there is not and cannot be any such thing as evidence, from events of God's displeasure, which is most contrary to the whole current of scripture, as may appear in part from things which have been observed. This gentleman might as well go further still, and say that God may cast guiltless persons into hellfire, to remain there in the most unutterable torments for ages of ages, (which bear no greater proportion to eternity than a quarter of an hour) and if he does so, it is no evidence of God's displeasure, because he can never want time, place, and power, abundantly to compensate their sufferings afterwards. If it be so, it is not to the purpose, as long as the scripture does so abundantly teach us to look on great calamities and sufferings which God brings on men, especially death, as marks of his displeasure for sin, and for sin belonging to them that suffer.
2. Another thing which may well lead us to suppose death, in a peculiar manner, above other temporal sufferings, intended as a testimony of God's displeasure for sin, is, that
death is a thing attended with that awful appearance; that gloomy and terrible aspect, that naturally suggests to our minds God's awful displeasure. Which is a thing that Dr. Taylor himself takes particular notice of, page 69, speaking of death, "Herein," says he, "have we before our eyes a striking demonstration that sin is infinitely hateful to God, and the corruption and ruin of our nature. Nothing is more proper than such a sight to give us the utmost abhorrence of all iniquity, &c." Now if death be no testimony of God's displeasure for sin, no evidence that the subject is looked upon, by him who inflicts it, as any other than perfectly, innocent, free from all manner of imputation of guilt, and treated only as an object of favor, is it not strange, that God should annex to it such affecting appearances of his hatred and anger for sin, more than to other chastisements? Which yet the scripture teaches us are always for sin. These gloomy and striking manifestations of God's hatred of sin attending death, are equivalent to awful frowns of God attending the stroke of his hand. If we should see a wise and just father chastising his child, mixing terrible frowns with severe strokes, we should justly argue, that the father considered his child as having something in him displeasing to him, and that he did not thus treat his child only under a notion of mortifying him, and preventing his being faulty hereafter, and making it up to him afterwards, when he had been perfectly innocent, and without fault, either of action or disposition thereto.
We may well argue from these things, that infants are not looked upon by God as sinless, but that they are by na ture children of wrath, seeing this terrible evil, comes so heav ily on mankind in infancy. But besides these things, which are observable concerning the mortality of infants in general, there are some particular cases of the death of infants, which the scripture sets before us, that are attended with circumstances, in a peculiar manner giving evidences of the sinfulness of such, and their just exposedness to divine wrath. As particularly,
The destroying of the infants in Sodom, and the neigh boring cities; which cities, destroyed in so extraordinary,
miraculous, and awful a manner, are set forth as a signal example, of God's dreadful vengeance for sin, to the world in all generations; agreeable to that of the apostle, Jude, verse 7. God did not reprove, but manifestly countenanced Abraham, when he said, with respect to the destruction of Sodom, (Gen. xviii. 23, 25.) "Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked?....That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" Abraham's words imply that God would not destroy the innocent with the guilty. We may well understand innocent as included in the word righteous, according to the language usual in scripture, in speaking of such cases of judgment and punishment; as is plain in Gen. xx. 4. Exod. xxiii. 7. Deut. xxv. 1. 2 Sam. iv. 11. 2 Chron. vi. 23, and Prov. xviii. 5. Eliphaz says, Job iv. 7. "Who ever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off ?” We see what great care God took that Lot should not be involved in that destruction. He was miraculously rescued by angels, sent on purpose; who laid hold on him, and brought him, and set him without the gates of the city; and told him that they could do nothing till he was out of the way. Gen. xix. 22. And not only was he thus miraculously delivered, but his two wicked daughters for his sake. The whole affair, both the destruction, and the rescue of them that escaped, was miraculous; and God could as easily have delivered the infants which were in those cities. And if they had been without sin, their perfect innocency, one should think, would have pleaded much more strongly for them, than those lewd women's relation to Lot pleaded for them. When in such a case, we must suppose these infants much further from deserving to be involved in that destruction, than even Lot himself. To say here, that God could make it up to those infants in another world, must be an insufficient reply. For so he could as easily have made it up to Lot, or to ten or fifty righteous, if they had been destroyed in the same fire: Nevertheless it is plainly signified, that this
would not have been agreeable to the wise and holy proceed ings of the judge of all the earth.
Since God declared, that if there had been found but ten righteous in Sodom, he would have spared the whole city for their sake, may we not well suppose, if infants are perfectly innocent, that he would have spared the old world, in which there were, without doubt, many hundred thousand infants, and in general one in every family, whose perfect innocence pleaded for its preservation? Especially when such vast care was taken to save Noah and his family, (some of whom, one at least, seem to have been none of the best) that they might not be involved in that destruction. If the perfect sinlessness of infants had been a notion entertained among the people of God of old, in the ages next following the flood, handed down from Noah and his children, who well knew that vast multitudes of infants perished in the flood, is it likely that Eliphaz, who lived within a few generations of Shem and Noah, would have said to Job, as he does in that forementioned, Job iv. 7. « Who ever perished, being innocent? And when were the righteous cut off?" Especially since in the same discourse (Chap. v. 1.) he appeals to the tradition of the ancients for a confirmation of this very point; as he also does in Chap. xv. 7....10, and xxii. 15, 16. In which last place he mentions that very thing, the destruction of the wicked by the flood, as an instance of that perishing of the wicked, which he supposes to be peculiar to them, for Job's conviction; in which the wicked were cut down out of time, their foundation being overflown with a flood. Where it is also observable, that he speaks of such an untimeliness of death as they suffered by the flood, as one evidence of guilt; as he also does, Chap. xv. 32, 33. "It shall be accomplished before his time; and his branch shall not be green." But those that were destroyed by the flood in infancy, above all the rest were cut down out of time; when instead of living above nine hundred years, ac cording to the common period of man's life, many were cut down before they were one year old.
And when God executed vengeance on the ancient inhab itants of Canaan, not only did he not spare their cities and