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I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent." Hosea xiii. 14, "Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." Zechariah viii. 14, "For thus saith the LORD God of hosts, As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not." Romans xi. 29, "For the gifts and callings of God are without repentance." Can these opposite testimonies be reconciled?
Two particulars must be acknowledged indisputable, by every individual who admits the prescience and omnipotence of Deity. Grant to the great first cause these two attributes,and we must pronounce positively, he never could repent agreeably to our acceptation of the word repentance. Invested with prescience, the events of time and eternity must have been disclosed to his view. Invested with omnipotence, he could direct every event according to his own good pleasure. If by repentance we understand nothing more than a change of measures, we acknowledge the dispensations of heaven to be various, and they were no doubt designed so to be.
It is undeniably true, testimonies diametrically contradictory, cannot consist; and yet, perhaps, the divinity of revelation resteth, in a great measure, upon its consistency. Scripture testimonies may appear contradictory, but I hesitate not to affirm decisively, that it is only in appearance that scripture testimonies can contradict each other. Although I may not always be able to point out the consistency of scripture, yet I do verily believe, that it always does consist both with itself, and with the honour of God.
But how are we to manage, when, as in the present case, the contradiction is so apparent? Shall we say the translator is in an error? This may be the case; and in many instances translators have, no doubt, given a false and a mutilated translation. The Bible was translated by fallible men. These men had, no doubt, ideas and a system of their own, and they could scarcely forbear a bias in favour of their own sentiments; and by the way, as I do not know that the Bible was ever translated by a Universalist, it appears to me wonderful, that a number of passages which so strikingly declare this God honouring truth, should be continued, and that too in an unmutilated state. I think a result so happy for the believer, must have been effectuated by the interposition
of the overruling spirit of truth. In fact, this circumstance appears to me as great a miracle as any which the sacred volume records.
I am not, however, fond of imputing errors to translators. Were we, upon every occasion when the text did not suit our purpose, to question the accuracy of the translation, it would lead us too far; it would ultimately destroy our standard; and persons would consider themselves justified in giving such a sense to scripture, as might best correspond with a wildered and distempered imagination. I cannot be satisfied with asserting, that the sacred oracles do not mean as they speak, for this would end in countless and cureless evils. "But, what then can we do when the contradiction is so palpable?" Do? Why I would do any thing rather than make God a liar.
Were I to receive a letter from a respectable friend, which letter contained some ideas or expressions, that did not correspond with the opinion I had formed of his general character, I would recur to former letters, and endeavour to collect something explanatory of the present embarrassment; but if former letters would not elucidate, I would call to mind the well-known, the well-established character of my respectable friend, and if this recollection would not extricate me from the perplexity in which I was involved, if the mystery still continued, I would attribute it either to my want of understanding, or to some misconception.
From every manifestation of my almighty Father, and from all I ever heard or saw of the God who made me, it is evident to my comprehension, that he is infinitely wise and infinitely good. But what ideas does the word repentance convey? Repentance has its origin in a conviction of error or of sin. It furnishes regret for the want of that capacity which has precipitated us into folly, or it is sorrow for that degree of turpitude which has involved us in guilt. But neither of these sources of repentance can be considered as proper to the infinitely wise, the infinitely good God.
It hath been observed, that the Creator communes with the creature he hath fashioned, in his own language, that he may the more readily be comprehended. (Thus spake he to his disciples respecting the death of Lazarus. But this idea will not aid us in the present instance, for we are told it repented God, that he had made man! But why did he repent? Was the result such as he had not calculated? Was not every event present to his view before the foundation of the world? Could an all-wise God be mis
taken in his calculation? Was he to whom one eternal now was ever present, disappointed in his expectation? Could not an omnipotent Being control events according to his own purpose? Must not an all-wise, an all-good, an omnipotent Being, be necessarily an unchanging Being? And is not our God said to be an unchanging God? Should any passage in the sacred writings assert, that God was not good, ought I to consider such testimony as stamped by divine authority? Ought I not rather unhesitatingly to pronounce that error, gross error, existed somewhere, and that the text was impiously deformed? It is really astonishing, when we take every circumstance into view, that so few errors are to be found in the translations of scripture which are now extant.
For myself, whenever insuperable difficulties occur, I am neither afraid nor ashamed to acknowledge that they are so. If declarations are confessedly diametrically opposed, I dare affirm, they cannot both be literally true; and thus circumstanced, I will accept that testimony as literal, which most comports with reason and with the attributes of the Almighty. Of one thing I am at all times positive, that God is true. Something must remain to be elucidated in that state upon which we verge, and we shall ultimately confess, from conviction confess, that all things are right.
I say then, and it appears to me I cannot too often say, that the infinitely wise God must know, and the infinitely good God must do all things well. I reverence the Bible; it is the Book of God. There is no yea and nay in the Bible. But it may contain passages beyond my comprehension. Yet I can find enough in it,that I can understand; and it is, and I trust it will continue unto me an abiding source of consolation.
NUMBERS ix. 1-14.
First, WHAT was the origin of the passover? In the book of Exodus, chapter twelfth, Moses gives us an answer to this question. "And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye
unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month, they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house. And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house, take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: and ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side-posts, and on the upper door-post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs shall they eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; and ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste it is the LORD's passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations: ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever."
Secondly, The time when this passover was kept, requires our marked and pious attention. It was on the evening immediately preceding the deliverance of the children of Israel.
Thirdly, of what was the passover typical? 1 Corinthians, v. 7, 8, "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." As the destroying angel injured none on whose door the blood of the passover was sprinkled so divine justice is completely satisfied for all those for whom the blood of Christ was shed: purchased
by the blood-shedding of the Redeemer, justice passes ove them, without an accusation.
Fourthly, As the lamb was slain, and the blood sprinkled, before the deliverance of the people: so it was necessary that Christ Jesus should suffer death, for the lost family of man, before it could be redeemed from the ruin into which it had been precipitated. John, xi. 50, 51, 52, " Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high Priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation. And not for that nation only, but also that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." Isaiah, liii. 5, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Daniel, ix. 24, 26, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. And after three score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off: but not for himself." Hosea, vi. 2, "After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." Luke, xxiv. 25, 26, 27, “Then he said unto them, 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? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself." Acts, xxvi. 22, 23, "Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come. That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles."
Fifthly, As the passover was kept and the lamb slain before the law was given by Moses, or the ceremonies performed, it teaches that our salvation resteth not upon the law, nor upon the instituted ceremonies, but upon the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelations, xiii. 8, " And all that dwell