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Duty of Repentance: Man’s Present State: Actual Sin- Book Fourth- Chapter 3- Section 1

Book Fourth

CHAPTER III.

MAN’S PRESENT STATE.

The evils consequent on the disobedience of our first parents were not confined to them personally, but have fallen on their descendants also. Adam had been created in the image of God; but when that image had been lost by transgression, he begat a son in his own likeness.[1] So all his descendants since have borne the image of the earthly, fallen progenitor, and have been like him, not only in character, but in condition. The subject will be examined further in the following sections.

SECTION I.–ACTUAL SIN.

MEN OF ALL AGES AND NATIONS, HAVE, IN THEIR ACTIONS, VIOLATED THE LAW OF GOD.[2]

The sacred volume, in describing the state of the world before the flood, says that “the earth was filled with violence.”[3] The history of the period before the flood is very brief; yet we find, in the beginning of it, the murder of Abel by this brother;[4] in the progress of it, the bigamy of Lamech,[5] and the murder which he confessed to his wives; and, in the close of it, this account of the complete corruption of the earth, and the general prevalence of violence. The flood was sent in wrath for the transgressions of men; but its waters did not cleanse the earth from sin. Iniquities prevailed after the flood, as they had done before; and the condition of mankind, in all nations, was such as Paul has described in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. The children of Abraham were separated from the rest of mankind, and made a peculiar people to God; but, notwithstanding the religious advantages which they enjoyed, their history is little else than a record of rebellions against God; and judgments inflicted on them for their provocations. So common is wickedness in the earth, that it is called “the course of this world,”[6] and it is said, “the whole world lieth in wickedness.”[7]

From this universal corruption no man is exempt. “There is no man which sinneth not.”[8] All whom the Spirit of God brings to a knowledge of themselves confess, “In many things we offend all;”[9] and they pray, “Forgive us our sins.”[10] If others make no confessions of sin, and no petitions for pardon, it is because of the blindness and hardness of their hearts.

He who looks into the state of society around him, finds proof of man’s wickedness. Crimes abound everywhere; and the earth is filled with violence, as it was of old. Laws restrain the crimes and violence of men; but the very necessity of laws demonstrates the wickedness of mankind. War and oppression make up, in great measure, the history of our race; and innumerable deeds of wickedness, which never find a place in the historic record, are written in God’s book of remembrance, and will be brought to light in that day, when men shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body.

The actual transgressions of men consist in doing what God has forbidden, and in leaving undone what he has commanded. The latter are called sins of omission; the former, sins of commission. With both these kinds of transgression all men are more or less chargeable. They who abstain from grosser crimes have, nevertheless, committed many sins, and omitted many duties. But sin, in the overt act, constitutes only a very small part of man’s sinfulness, as will appear in the next section.

[1] Gen. v. 3.

[2] Rom. iii. 9–19; 1 John v. 19; Eph. ii. 2, 3.

[3] Gen. vi. 11.

[4] Gen. iv. 8.

[5] Gen. iv. 19–23.

[6] Eph. ii.2.

[7] 1 John v. 19.

[8] 2 Ch. vi. 36.

[9] James iii. 2.

[10] Luke xi. 4.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

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Works of God- Providence: Conclusion- Book Third

Book Third

CONCLUSION.

Genuine piety in the heart prompts the inquiry which burst forth from the lips of the converted Saul of Tarsus, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” It asks to know the will of God, for the purpose of doing it, as naturally as the infant’s appetite craves the appropriate food. The men of the world walk in their own ways, and fulfil the desires of their own minds; but the man of piety desires to walk in the way of the Lord, and to do that which is pleasing to him. Hence he delights to meditate on his law. The Bible would not be a book adapted to the state of his mind, if it did not contain precepts for the regulation of his conduct.

The infant’s appetite not only craves food, but appropriate food; and this fact is alluded to in the words of Peter, “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”[1] The Bible, the word of God, supplies the sincere milk which the child of grace needs and craves. It not only gives precepts, but precisely such precepts as are adapted to the holy affections of the new-born soul, and tend to increase and strengthen them. Paul delighted in the law of God, not simply because it was his law, but because it was holy, just and good.[2] The pure morality of Christ and his doctrine, even infidels acknowledge; and precisely the same morality appears in the decalogue, and in the two great precepts on which hang all the law and the prophets. The decalogue, written on the tables of stone by the finger of God, has been thought by some to be the first specimen of alphabetical writing known in the world. Whether this be true or not, it is certainly among the earliest specimens of which we have any knowledge. The fact, that at so early a period a law so pure and perfect was given to mankind, is very remarkable, and can be satisfactorily accounted for only on the supposition that it emanated from God. The intrinsic excellence of this law corresponds well with the solemnity and grandeur of its promulgation from Sinai. The pious man admires its perfection and delights in its holiness, and sees in it a proof that the Bible which contains it is indeed the word of God.

When the desires are properly regulated within, all the out-goings of the soul will be in accordance with the will of God; and they will be so adapted to the circumstances of our being, as to show that the power which made the things that are without, is the same that works within us to will and to do. All the works of God, in heaven above, where the sun, moon and stars declare his glory, and in the earth beneath, which is full of his goodness, are fitted to excite our admiration and gratitude. We admire the habitation which our Creator has provided for us, so splendid and so richly furnished, and we sit, with overflowing gratitude, at the table which his Providence has spread before us with such profusion and variety.

The doctrine of General Providence suffices for the exercise of gratitude in the pious heart. The general arrangements of the world in which we are placed show the benevolence of him who planned them; and we should have just cause of gratitude to him for the wise and beneficial arrangements, even if we conceived of him as leaving the world to the operation of the general laws which he has instituted, and giving no direction to them in the minute details of our daily experience. But genuine piety is no less displayed by resignation in the hour of suffering, than by gratitude in the general experience of enjoyment. Yet resignation to God under afflictions would be impossible, if they were not viewed as coming from the hand of God. Job was resigned under his affliction, because he considered it sent by God. “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not also receive evil?” To the exercise of resignation, a belief in particular Providence is necessary. The general arrangements of Providence, which, because of their benevolence, have called forth our gratitude, may fail, in the particular exigency of our present condition, to meet our necessities. We suffer in consequence of this failure, and piety prompts us to bear the suffering with resignation to the will of God; but this would be impossible if we did not believe that the particular event happens according to the will of God. We must view Providence, not merely as instituting general laws, but as directing the times and circumstances in which the operation of these laws shall cross our path.

In order to the further exercise of piety, the providence in which we believe must not only be particular, but it must be exercised with design. Resignation to blind fate is not piety. We must not only feel the hand of God in our affliction, but we must realise that it has been laid on us with design. We have to do, not so much with our Father’s hand as with our Father’s heart. It is not necessary to exercise of piety, that we should be able to penetrate his design; but we must believe its existence. We are not required to understand or explain all the mystery attendant on the doctrine of predestination; but a belief of the doctrine is necessary to an intelligent exercise of pious resignation. A wise Providence, and to such only is intelligent piety resigned, operates with design.

Human depravity is prone to make an improper use of divine truth. The doctrine concerning God’s will of purpose is made a pretext for neglecting his will of command, and an apology for past disobedience. The transgressor pleads, “who hath resisted his will?” But sincere piety leaves God to execute his will of purpose in his own way, and makes the will of precept its rule of duty. It leaves God to his work, and delights in it as the work of God. Where it cannot comprehend his design, it still trusts in him, and rejoices in the assurance that he does all things well. It recognizes him as operating in all things without; and, in viewing all these operations, finds occasion for admiration, gratitude and resignation. But whenever a question of duty arises, it is decided, not by the inquiry, What has God done? or, what has he purposed to do? but, What has he commanded? The union of resignation and obedience in the same heart, is a test of true piety. Happy is he in whom their influence is combined. He can delight to do the will of God, and find a heaven in his obedience; and he can rejoice even in tribulation, and feel a bed of thorns, if God has laid him on it, to be a bed of down.

[1] 1 Peter ii. 2.

[2] Rom. vii. 12.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Works of God- Providence: Moral Necessity- Book Third- Chapter 3- Section 6

Book Third

CHAPTER III.

SECTION VI.–MORAL NECESSITY.

If a number of dice be put into a box and thrown out on a table, it is certain that every one will take some position, and will lie on some one of its six sides; but no one can foretell what the several positions will be, or on which of the six sides each one will lie. These positions are attributed to chance; and, in a calculation of chances, this case may be adduced as an appropriate example. But though no one will undertake to foretell what position each die will assume, yet every one believes that all its motion, till its final position is assumed, is in accordance with the laws of nature, and that the fall from the box is not more determined by these laws than the final position. A mind which could go through the calculation, and estimate the precise effect of the forces applied, from the beginning to the end, on each die, from the position in which it started, might determine the result with as much certainty as the astronomer feels in computing an eclipse. The position of the die is no more the effect of chance than the occurrence of the eclipse. Chance is, in this case at least, a relative term–having reference to our ignorance.

That a large part of the events which we esteem contingent are so merely with reference to our ignorance, everybody will admit; but it is still a question, whether there is any absolute contingency in the world. Are there any events which occur that do not conform to an established order of sequence?

The doctrine of necessity denies the existence of absolute contingency, and maintains that the relation of cause and effect, with its established order of sequence, is not only general, but universal. In opposition to this doctrine, many maintain that human actions do not conform to an established order of sequence; and it is argued that such conformity would render man a mere machine, moving as he is moved, and, therefore, not accountable for his actions. To this argument it is replied, that the doctrine fully admits the distinction between man as a living, thinking, willing, and moral being, and a mere machine, which neither lives nor thinks; and that this difference is at the foundation of his accountability. It is argued, that if his actions did not follow from his volitions, by an established order of sequence, they would not be voluntary, and he would not be accountable for them. The validity of this argument, so far as it goes, probably no one will deny; and the question becomes narrowed down to this: Do human volitions occur as effects of antecedent causes, in an established order or sequence? The question is one of great difficulty; and, though the minds of the ablest reasoners have been employed on it, no solution has been reached that gives general satisfaction. The very difficulty of it may satisfy us that our benevolent Creator has not made the solution of it necessary, either to our faith or our duty; and we might leave the puzzling investigation to those powerful minds that are best fitted to grapple with such abstrusities, were it not that the subject is intruding itself into the minds of all inquirers, and, to some extent, affecting their theological opinions. It is, therefore, desirable to ascertain, if possible, wherein the difficulty of the subject consists, and how far it is connected with our faith or practice.

Analogy favors the doctrine of necessity. A regular order of sequence is admitted to exist throughout the material world. It is admitted to exist also, to some extent, in the operations of the human mind. Impressions on the organs of sense produce their appropriate sensations in the mind, according to fixed laws. Perceptions follow, and judgments, and trains of reasoning, all of which so far conform to fixed laws, that the order of their succession is studied with a view to find out these laws; and the science of mental philosophy proceeds on the supposition that such laws exist, and employs itself in finding them out. The train of mental operations beginning with the sensation which immediately follows the impression on the organs of sense, terminates with the volition which immediately precedes muscular action. A regular order of sequence may be traced from the first, through much of the mental process that is moving on toward the ultimate volition. Thence onward we again espy the line of succession in the action which follows, and in all its effects. At most, but a few links only in the chain can be wanting; and analogy favours the conclusion that these are not absent, but that they exist even if we cannot trace them.

An argument for the doctrine of necessity may be drawn from the fact that human volitions are every day made a subject of calculation. A man who would not attempt to calculate the position which a thrown die will assume, will judge what a known individual will determine to do in given circumstances; and so much does he rely on the correctness of his calculation, that he will be governed by it in some of his most important concerns. It is thus that a sagacious general often anticipates the movements of his enemy. All this would be impossible if the sequences of human volitions were wild and lawless.

The doctrine of necessity has been argued from Gods foreknowledge. The more sagacious any one is, the more successfully he can judge beforehand what a known individual will do in given circumstances. As a wise man may foreknow, much more can the all-wise God. If all events are contained in their causes, and are to be developed in due time, in conformity to an established order of sequence, we can conceive that the Omniscient One sees these events in their causes, and foreknows their future development with infallible certainty. On the other hand, if there is absolute contingency in the world, it is out of our power to conceive how even God himself can foreknow it, and it is alleged that he may be disappointed, and perhaps defeated in some of his plans by its occurrence.

The leading arguments against the doctrine are, that it is inconsistent with the free agency of man, and that it makes God the author of sin.

It is argued that the doctrine is inconsistent with the free agency of man. While we see the material world moving around us in obedience to the laws of nature, we are conscious that our acts are not directed by such a necessity We choose every day which of two courses we will take, and the very choice, of which we are conscious, implies the power to take either. The faculty of choosing would be possessed in vain, if we were restricted to one of the courses by invincible necessity. There is no free agency where an individual is bound to one way, and can take no other.

To this the advocates of necessity reply, the freedom of our actions, of which consciousness testifies, is fully admitted in their doctrine. Freedom of action consists in doing what we please. Compulsion to act against our will is physical necessity. The moral necessity which is contended for, respects, not the relation of the volition to the subsequent action, but its relation to antecedent causes. When a man’s volitions are known to be determined by strong ruling principles of action, it is maintained that his free agency is as perfect as if they were the result of long continued deliberation, or proceeded from no known cause. While we are conscious that we act from choice and are therefore free agents, we are equally conscious that our choice itself is, in may cases, determined instantly and firmly by strong ruling principles; and that this fact, instead of detracting from the free agency and virtue of our deeds, is our highest praise.

It is further argued, that the doctrine makes God the author of sin. The laws of nature, in the material world, are viewed as God’s mode of operation. If the sun shines, and the rain descends, it is God who gives light to his creatures, and fertilizes the ground for their benefit; and when storms rage, and hurricanes sweep over the land, these, arising according to the laws of nature which he has established, are still regarded as God’s operation. In every case the cause of the cause is the cause of the effect. If fixed laws govern with like necessity in the department of morals, it is argued that God must be viewed as the author of all that happens in obedience to these laws. Having himself established them, and created the causes which contain all the effects to be developed in the established order of sequence, he is as truly the author of these effects as if they proceeded immediately from his hand. It can no longer be said that sin has place by his permission, any more than it can be said that a storm arises by his permission. Even sin must, like the storm, be viewed as God operating. This is the argument which the advocates of necessity find it most difficult to answer.

The philosophical arguments on this question appear to me to preponderate on the side of necessity. Indeed, how philosophy could decide against it, cannot well be conceived. She begins her investigations with the assumption that laws of nature do exist, and she makes it her business to find out what these laws are. If she observes any events that do not conform to known laws, she still assumes that there is a law which governs them, and she renews her effort to find it out. Hence, for philosophy to decide that there are events which conform to no law, would be to abandon the foundation on which she has ever stood. If such events ever occur, they belong to a department of nature which is beyond the walks of philosophy.

As a theological question, the doctrine of necessity is seriously embarrassed by the difficulty respecting the authorship of sin. The whole subject of God’s providence over sin, is exceedingly difficult. A future section will be devoted to the consideration of it.

Truth, whether ascertained by philosophy or theology, must be consistent with itself. But it ought to be remembered, that the tests by which philosophy ascertains truth, are unequal to those which theology applies. Philosophy allows conclusions to be drawn from an induction of particulars, which is unavoidably incomplete. As far as our individual observation has extended, gravitation is found at every part of the earth’s surface. From the testimony of others, we know that it exists wherever human foot has trodden. This induction is sufficient for philosophy, and she draws her conclusion that gravitation exists at every part of the earth’s surface, even in the regions denied to the habitation or approach of men. If some voyagers should testify that, on a certain island in the Pacific, gravitation ceases to operate at the distance of ten feet above the earth’s surface, the announcement, if deemed worthy of credence, would startle the whole race of philosophers, who would hasten to institute the experiments necessary to determine the truth or falsehood of the strange report. Should it be found, on trial, that all bodies thrown ten feet into the air, on that island, go off into unknown space, philosophers would inquire into the cause of this phenomenon, that is, would endeavor to find a law to which it conforms. Thus philosophy often finds it necessary to rectify her previous conclusions, because these were formed from an incomplete induction of particulars. To Siamese philosophy, it was impossible for water to become solid, so as to bear up carriages of burden. So, much to our wisest philosophy may be the erroneous conclusions of our ignorance. God’s knowledge is perfect, and with him mistake is impossible. If human testimony can suffice to rectify a conclusion of philosophy, much more ought the testimony of God be sufficient. A “thus saith the Lord,” is a better foundation for faith than all the deductions of human philosophy, and then only is faith divine, when it stands on this foundation.

Let us imagine all created things to have been brought into being, and left, for a time, in a wild state, before the laws of nature were enacted. In this chaos, the atoms would not regard the very first law of philosophy, which enjoins that matter at rest shall continue at rest; and, when put in motion, shall move forward in a right line with uniform velocity. All the affinities and elective attractions, now so familiar to the chemist, would be unknown to the various species of matter, and unobserved by them. Particles would dance and rest alternately in the most capricious manner. They would attract each other for a time and then repel with unaccountable inconstancy. They would remain for a period in close embrace, and then divorce each other with the changeableness of fickle lovers. If, when the fiat of Jehovah reduced this confusion to order by subjecting all the movements to regular laws, it was his pleasure to except some little region of his vast empire from the operation of these laws, what can philosophy say against it? If such exception was made, it was doubtless made for wise reasons; perhaps to show to his celestial school of intelligences the benefit of order by retaining a memorial of the ancient chaos; as the manna was laid up in the ark for the benefit of the Israelites. If such a region was permitted to remain, it was doubtless so bounded and shut in, that its lawless confusion cannot disturb the order of the universal empire. Now, if it should be discovered that the link of connection between volition and the cause or causes antecedent, is the place, and the only place that God has left without law, philosophy must be dumb. If God says that it is so, we are bound to believe it; and we may infer that he so keeps this lawless connection under control, that it shall not subvert his government.

If the views which have been presented are correct, the following conclusions may be considered established:–1. The doctrine of moral necessity is not inconsistent with the free-agency and accountability of man. 2. The doctrine cannot be disproved by human philosophy. 3. We ought not to admit any inference from it as an article of faith, unless it be supported by the authority of the Holy Scriptures.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Works of God- Providence: Natural Government- Book Third- Chapter 3- Section 3

September 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Book Third

CHAPTER III.

SECTION III.–NATURAL GOVERNMENT.

Among our earliest lesson, we learn that the relation of cause and effect exists, and that events occur because of this relation in an established order of sequence. Were the order of succession not established, or were we ignorant of it, we should be unable to mange the most common concerns of life. If food sometimes nourished, and sometimes poisoned, or if we were incapable of learning whether the nutritive quality belonged to bread, or to arsenic, we should be unable to regulate the process of eating, so necessary to the preservation of life. But our Creator has made us capable of observing the sequences of nature, and of learning the order in which they occur, and the relation of cause and effect, which the parts of the succession sustain to each other. The study of these sequences is the business of philosophy; but philosophy is not confined to the university, or the lecture-room. It is found in every man’s walk, and in the every-day experience of life. The child begins to learn it in the cradle; and without some knowledge of it, men would not know how to shun the flood, the flames, or the precipice.

In all departments of knowledge we classify the things known; and the sequences of nature, classified, become what we call laws of nature. These are only the regular modes in which the sequences of nature occur. In the phrase, law of nature, the term law is used in a transferred sense. When employed in morals, it implies an authority commanding, and a subject bound to obey. But nature is not a being possessing authority; and natural things are not capable of obedience in the proper sense. In morals, laws given may be disobeyed; but the processes of nature always conform to what are called the laws of nature. The laws of nature may be regarded as the modes in which the providence of God operates. His will has determined the relation of cause and effect; and, therefore, the laws of nature are the orders of sequence, in which it is his will, that the changes of natural things should occur.

When we contemplate the order which prevails in the natural world, we behold the exhibition of the wisdom which God’s providence displays. His natural government, as well as his moral, abounds with wisdom. All his reasons for planning the system of things precisely as it is we cannot presume to understand; but the advantage resulting from its order meets us in every experience of life. It would be to no purpose that we have been so made as to be capable of observing the sequences of nature, if these sequences took place without order. If chaos reigned in the succession of events, philosophy would be impossible, and equally impossible the most common arts of life. Reason would be an unavailing gift; and if human life were not filled with perpetual terror, the exemption would arise rather from inability to comprehend its danger, than from the circumstances of its situation.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Works of God- Creation- Book Third- Chapter 2

September 7, 2016 Leave a comment

Book Third

CHAPTER II.

WORKS OF GOD–CREATION.

GOD CREATED ALL THINGS OUT OF NOTHING.[1]

Originally, nothing existed but God; no matter, out of which visible things were formed, and no spiritual substance, out of which angels and human souls were made; but God gave to all things that exist their entire being.

It has been argued that matter cannot be eternal, because self-existence is too noble a property to be attributed to an inferior nature; but this argument is not satisfactory. Why may not a small thing exist without a cause, as well as a greater? The producing of some particular effect we may conceive to be easier for a higher nature than a lower; but, is self-production, the effect is equal to the cause, and the difficulty of producing it must be as great for the one nature as for the other. In all such a priori reasoning, we are liable to deceive ourselves; and perhaps the danger is greatest where the reasoning appears most profound. For aught that philosophy can teach us, an atom of matter is absolutely indestructible; and, on philosophical principles, if it must exist through future eternity, it may have existed through past eternity. The miracle of creation is as far beyond the demonstrations of philosophy as the miracle of annihilation. When we have proved the existence of a God, able to work miracles, a probability arises that matter may be a production of his power, and we may see creative intelligence displayed in the properties and quantities of the various kinds of matter, and their adaptedness to beneficial purposes. But, for decisive proof that all things were made out of nothing, we turn to the word of God, and receive it as a truth of faith, rather than of reason. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”[2]

In the text just quoted, the doctrine of creation is not expressed in the language in which it is most commonly stated. It is not said the world was made out of nothing; but the same idea is expressed in a different manner. When we see a statue, we see the marble of which it consists; and when we see a house, we see the materials of which it is constructed. Paul teaches that the world which we see was not made of the visible substances that we behold, i.e., it was not formed of pre-existent matter, but the materials of which it now appears to be formed, were brought into existence at the time when the things themselves were created.

The work of creation was performed without effort. God spake, and it was done. He said, let there be light, and there was light. After working six days, he rested on the seventh; not because he was weary, but that the seventh day might be sanctified, and made a day of rest for man. Wherefore it is said, the sabbath was made for man.[3]

From an examination of the earth’s crust, geologists have discovered, as they think, that animals and plants existed long before the Mosaic date of creation. Methods have been proposed to reconcile the account, as contained in the first chapter of Genesis, with these professed discoveries. Some have supposed each of the days of creation to have been a long period of years. The seventh day of rest, or cessation from the work of creating, they understand to have continued to the present time, though nearly six thousand years have passed; and they suppose that each of the preceding days may have included an equally long period. Others understand “the beginning” mentioned in the first verse of the history, to refer to a time long anterior to that referred to in the second verse, “the earth was without form, &c.” A similar transition, though not so sudden, is made in the first chapter of John: “In the beginning was the word;–and the word was made flesh.”[4] Many divines have been disposed to regard the science of geology with suspicion, and to consider its deductions as inimical to the faith. But there can be no just ground to fear science, in any of its departments, so long as it pursues its investigations legitimately, and makes its deductions with becoming modesty. The Author of the Bible is the maker of the world, and the author of all truth; and his works and his word must harmonize, for the truth is always consistent. Passages in his word have been thought to be inconsistent with each other; but a more careful examination has shown their harmony, and we need not fear but that due investigation will show the word to be consistent will all the legitimate deduction of science.

The undersigned coincidences which have been discovered in the Scripture narratives, constitute a highly satisfactory part of the internal evidence which the Bible contains, that its records are true. The proof which these furnish is always the more satisfactory, the more manifest it is that the coincidence was undesigned. When two portions of Scripture, which appeared to disagree with each other, have been found, on careful investigation, to be perfectly harmonious, a coincidence has been discovered, that has the best possible evidence that it was undesigned. In this way the supposed discrepancies, which at first embarrassed us, turn out to the establishment of our faith; and when some still remain which we have not yet learned to harmonize, we are taught to wait patiently, with the confident expectation that these dark places also will at some time be illuminated. The same faith and patience should be exercised when science and Scripture are supposed to disagree. The infidel delights to point out apparent discrepancies in Scripture, and he exults when he can announce some supposed discovery of science inconsistent with the word of revelation. While the infidel triumphs, men of weak faith stagger; but it is truly a weak faith that cannot withstand such a shock. We might as well doubt whether the sun shines, when his brilliance is eclipsed by a passing cloud. The mass of evidence that the Bible is the true word of God, is so great that we can ill afford to wait till the temporary cloud passes, with the confident expectation that the light will again shine, perhaps with increased splendor. Geology is yet a recent science. What it will do ultimately for the cause of truth, future years must decide, and it is unwise to fear the result. We may trust that the ark of God will be carried through safely. Already, to some extent, the discoveries of the new science have turned out to the establishment of the faith. It has penetrated a very small distance below the earth’s surface, and, in the successive deposits of animal remains, it has found a record from which it professes to read the order in which the various species of animals came into being. Between this record and that of Moses, there is an undesigned coincidence. It is especially remarkable that, by the general consent of geologists, human remains are found only in the last of the animal deposits. This fact points to a time agreeing well with the Mosaic date of creation, when men began to exist, and when, of course, a creating power was exerted. If geology can establish that, previous to this, a convulsion of nature desolated the earth, and buried a whole generation of inferior animals in its caverns, be it so. We will listen to her arguments, and weigh them well; but we cannot omit to notice the agreement of her facts with the faithful record of inspiration. If geology were to carry back the origin of the human race to a date long anterior to that of Moses she would contradict, not only the Bible, but all history, written and traditionary. It cannot be accounted for, that our knowledge of ancient history should be limited to so recent a period, if the race had previously existed through thousands of generations. The progress in the settlement of the world, the establishment of ancient kingdoms, and the building of cities, are spread out before us on the pages of history, and geology does not contradict the record.

Although science will never contradict Scripture, it may correct erroneous inferences from it, and, in doing this, may incidentally demonstrate the wisdom from which the Bible emanated. When we have arrived at mature years, we call to mind instructions that we received in our childhood from a wise father, and that were adapted to the purpose for which they were designed. They did not teach the sciences which we have since learned, but they taught us nothing contrary; and we are now able to see, in what was said and what was omitted to be said, that the father fully understood the sciences, which it was then no part of his design to teach us. Had he not understood them, he would have employed other forms of speech, and we should be able to recollect some word or words that would betray his ignorance. So the false revelations of the heathen world contradict science. Some of them contradict the very first lessons in geography, and a child in a christian school can prove them to be false. But science, in all its advancement, though it has made its greatest attainments in the lands where the Bible is most known, has found nothing in the Bible to contradict. The only rational way to account for this, is to suppose that the Author of the Bible understood the sciences. We nowhere read in this work that the earth is supported by an elephant, and that the elephant stands on a tortoise; but we read, “He hangeth the earth upon nothing,”[5] a statement which, made in the very infancy of revelation, may satisfy us that the author of the Bible understood the mechanism of the universe. In a past age of ignorance, men supposed that Joshua’s command to the sun to stand still, disproved the Copernican system of astronomy; but this childish inference from the language of Scripture, is now well understood to be unwarranted. Men of science, who firmly believe the Copernican system, speak as freely of the sun rising and the sun setting, as those who never have heard that these appearances are owing to the earth’s rotation. Future science may teach us to correct other erroneous inferences which many have drawn from the Scripture; and we should be content to learn. The result will give further proof that the Author of Nature is the author of the Bible.

Our hearts receive a strong impression of the power, wisdom and goodness of the Lord, when we dwell on the thought that he made the heavens and the earth, with all that they contain. Above all, when we reflect that he made us, and not we ourselves, we are constrained to acknowledge his right to require what service, praise and glory we are capable of rendering. He is the former of our bodies, and the father of our spirits; and shall we not render to him that which is his own? Shall we not serve and glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his? His right, by virtue of redemption, may present stronger claims, but his right by virtue of creation , is sufficient to establish our obligation, and we ought to recognise its force.

[1] Gen. i.; Neh. ix. 6; Job ix. 9; Ps. lxxxix. 11; xcv. 5; ciii. 19; civ. 4, 19; Col. i. 16; Rev. iv. 11; Heb. iii. 4; xi. 3; Acts xvii. 24.

[2] Heb. xi.3.

[3] Mark ii.27.

[4] John i. 1-14.

[5] Job xxvi. 7.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Attributes of God: Conclusion- Book 2

Book Second

CONCLUSION.

The doctrine concerning God harmonizes with the affections of the pious heart, and tends to cherish them. The moral nature of those who do not love God, demonstrates his existence and their obligation to love him and consequently, their nature is at war with itself. There is a conflict within, between conscience and the depraved affections. The moral principle is in the unrenewed heart, overrun with unholy passions; and it cannot be duly developed, until the affections are sanctified. When, by this change, harmony has been produced in the inner man, all that is within will harmonize with the doctrine concerning God. The mind, in its proper and healthy action, joyfully receives the doctrine, and finds in God the object of its highest love. The pious man rejoices that God exists, and that his attributes are what nature and revelation proclaim them to be. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.”[1]

The doctrine concerning God not only harmonizes with inward piety, but tends to cherish it. If love to God exists when he is but partially known, it will increase as our knowledge of him increases. As the pious man studies the character of God, the beauty and glory of that character open to his view, and his heart is drawn out towards it with more intense affection. With such soul-ravishing views the Psalmist had been favored, when he exclaimed, ” O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.”[2]

The love of God, which is increased by a true knowledge of him, is not a mere feeling of gratitude for blessings received. Many persons talk of God’s goodness, and profess to love him, who have no pleasure in contemplating his holiness and justice, and to whom these are unwelcome attributes. When such persons stand before him in the last judgment, there is reason to fear that they will find him to be a different God from that which they loved and praised on earth. Love to the true God is love to the God of holiness and justice, the God in whom every moral perfection is united; and if our love is of this kind, we shall delight to survey the glories of the divine character, and, apart from all views of the benefits received from him, shall be enamored of his essential loveliness.

The love to God which increases by a true knowledge of him, is pervaded with a deep-felt reverence for his character. The familiar levity with which he is sometimes approached and addressed, by no means comports with the awful exhibitions of himself which he has made in his works and in his word. They who, while they profess to love him, have no solemn sense of his infinite grandeur and holiness, have yet to learn the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom. The true knowledge of God will rectify this evil in the heart.

The true love of God is accompanied with humility. When we are absorbed in the contemplation of the human mind, we may well be filled with admiration of its powers and capacities. But lately, it rose into being, from the darkness of nonentity, a spark so feebly glimmering, that an omniscient eye only could perceive its light. In the short period which has intervened, it has gradually increased in splendor, and has probably astonished the world by its brilliance. What was once the feeblest ray of intellect, has become a Newton, a Locke, a Howard, or a Napoleon. And when we conceive of this immortal mind, as continuing to expand its powers throughout a boundless future, we are ready to form a high estimate of human greatness. But when we remember that man, whatever he is, and whatever he is capable of, is a creature formed by the hand of God, and endowed by him with all these noble faculties; when we consider that, with all his advancement through eternal ages, he will forever be as nothing, compared with the infinitude of God; and when we look back into past eternity, and contemplate God as existing with all this boundlessness of perfection, ages of ages before our feeble existence commenced; we may well turn away from all admiration of human greatness, and exclaim, “Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him?”

But the strongest incentive to humility is found in contrasting our depravity with God’s holiness. Noble as the human intellect is, it is ruined by its apostasy from God. Every depraved son of Adam, who has studied the attributes of God, and has attained to some knowledge of his immaculate holiness, may well exclaim in deep humility, “Woe is me! A man of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”[3]

The true knowledge of God gives confidence in him. In view of his truth, we learn to put unwavering trust in the manifestations of himself which he has made, and the promises which he has given, for the foundation of our hope. There are times when the good man loses his sensible enjoyment of the divine favor, and when the sword of justice appears pointed at his breast; but even then, with the true knowledge and love of God in his heart, he can say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”

The doctrine concerning God which the Bible teaches, confirms its claim to be regarded as the word of God.

This doctrine, as we have seen, is precisely adapted to man’s moral nature, and calls forth the moral and religious principles with which his Creator has endowed him, into their best and noblest exercise. If viewed apart from his relation to God, man, the creature so wonderfully endowed, is an enigma in the universe; but the doctrine concerning God solves the mystery. The tendency of this doctrine to exert a sanctifying influence, at the very origin of all human feeling and action, demonstrates that it comes from God. He who experiences its sanctifying power on his heart, has a proof of its truth that noting else can give. For this doctrine, we are chiefly indebted to the Bible. Here God, who has dimly exhibited himself in his works, comes forth in a direct communication, and like the sun in the heavens, makes himself visible by his own light. If the religious principle within us acted as it ought, the doctrine of the Bible would be as precisely adapted to us as the light of the sun is to the eye; and we should have as thorough conviction that the God of the Bible exists, as we have that the sun exists, when we see him shining forth with all his splendor in the mid-heavens.

The proof that the Bible is the word of God, will accumulate as we make progress in our investigation of religious truth. We have advanced one step, by our inquiries into the existence and attributes of God; and the glory of the Bible-doctrine concerning God, has shone on our path with dazzling brightness. Let us continue to prosecute our studies, guided by this holy book; and if we open our hearts to the sanctifying power of its truth, we shall have increasing proof, in its influence on our souls, that it comes from the God of holiness.

[1] Ps. lxxiii. 25.

[2] Ps. lxiii. 1, 2.

[3] Isaiah vi. 5.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 3- Chapter 32- Feed My Sheep

CHAPTER 32-“FEED MY SHEEP” #Joh 21:16

Introduction:

This conversation between our Lord and Peter is one of the most beautiful and interesting stories of the New Testament. Our Lord excelled in conversation for in all things He has the preeminence. Whenever He conversed with anyone there was a sermon rich in truth. Think of His talk with Nicodemus, the fallen woman at Jacob’s well, the pharisees, His disciples.

These words of our Lord to Peter were designed to administer reproof and also to communicate forgiveness. Peter had behaved badly as a disciple of Christ. Along with the other disciples he had forsaken and fled but he had done worse than that. He had denied with cursing that he even knew the Lord. Christ had died and had been buried, but Peter had been to the grave and found it empty. More than that he had seen the risen Christ and was convinced that He was alive. But even so, Peter did not expect the Lord to have any further use for him and so one day he said to the other disciples, “I go a fishing” (#Joh 21:3). And they were in the same mood and said “We also go with thee.” But after a night of so called fisherman’s luck, the Lord appears to them and turns failure into success. He apparently ignores the others and says to Peter, “Lovest thou me more than these?” (#Joh 21:15). This cutting question thrice spoken hurt and humbled Peter. It was like a dagger in his heart. But the command, “Feed my sheep” (#Joh 21:16) also thrice spoken was the way of forgiveness and restoration. Peter had lost his office only temporarily; the Lord would fulfill His promise to wash Peter’s feet and give him a part with Him. He forgave his conduct and recommissioned him. Peter and Judas both fell from an office, the office of apostleship. But with this difference: Judas, as a lost man, lost his office forever; Peter as a saved man lost his only temporarily. Judas was an apostate; Peter was a backslider. Judas was an unbeliever and a devil; Peter was a sheep and a believer. Judas had remorse of conscience; Peter had godly sorrow. Peter came back to Christ with humility and penitence; Judas went away by the suicide route. Judas died at his own hands; Peter died as a martyr.

From this story I have gathered some thoughts that by the Spirit’s blessing may prove helpful.

1. This charge to Peter reveals the love of Christ for His people.

As the Good Shepherd, Christ had just laid down His life for the sheep. He had taken His life again and was about to leave them in the world. But He still loves them. “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (#Joh 13:1). And in His love He commits them to an under shepherd. This command to feed the sheep causes Peter to think of preachers as under shepherds with Christ as the chief shepherd who will reward them for faithful care of His sheep. “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (#1Pe 5:4). Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (#Ac 20:28).

1. The interest He claims in them: “My sheep,” “My lambs.” They were His

1a) by a gift from the Father. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (#Joh 17:9).

1b) By purchase. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (#Ac 20:28);

1c) By reward for His travail of soul. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (#Isa 53:11).

2. The qualifications required in the pastors, or shepherd. There are several but only one mentioned here: Love to Christ. It was on this question of love that Christ examined and cross examined Peter. He would not trust them to one who did not love Him. It is not love for people but love for Christ that is needed. If we love Him we will love His sheep for His sake. If we love Him we will feed His sheep. If we do not love Him our service will be that of a hireling. “But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (#Joh 10:12-13). A hireling would starve them or poison them and forsake them. A hireling will fleece them and flog them. He will fleece them for his own interest, or flog them to get something off his chest. I heard of a preacher who boasted of his “sucker list.”

3. Provision of pasture. The word of God is the pasture of the sheep. As pastors we must lead them into the pasture.

2. Duty of the pastor to His people.

There are two words translated “feed”. The word in our text is different from the word in the 15th and 17th verses. In those two verses the word means “give food to,” but in our text it has a wider meaning and means shepherd or take care of. It includes feeding, but includes all that a shepherd is to do for sheep; feed, protect, govern. Requirements:

1. Unselfishness. “Woe to the idol shepherd who leaveth the flock!” (#Zec 11:17). “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?” (#Eze 34:2).

2. Knowledge of the word. The sheep’s food is in this book. We are not to feed the flesh but the best principles the graces of faith, hope, love. Our preaching must not give men faith in themselves but in Christ. Hope is the grace that looks to something better in the future. We are feeding this grace when we preach that this earth has nothing for the saint; that the heavenly country is his fatherland. We nourish the grace of love by preaching the sovereign and gracious love of Christ.

3. What you must be to thrive on the Word.

3a) You must be a sheep or you will not know His voice in His word. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (#Joh 10:26).

3b) You must be a sheep or else you will not relish the food of the Word.

3c) You must be a sheep or else you will listen to false teachers who are thieves and robbers. “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them” (#Joh 10:8).

3d) You must be a sheep or else you will not enter by the door into salvation. Christ is the door. “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (#Joh 10:9).

—- End of Book—-

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 3