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And Abraham Said, Wilt Thou Also Destroy Th« • Ishtioos With Thi Wicked, Olord?
Tlllaoviktvh, Tbih, Be Fifty Richteobs Withik The City ; Wilt Tho.u Also Destroy And Not Spare The City, For The Fifty Richteobs That Are Therein ? &c.
'~rv H E S E, and the following verses, ■*■ in a very remarkable manner, demonstrate, on the one hand, the Mercy of the Almighty; and the benevolent disposition. of this amiable patriarch, on the other. We are first struck with the tender arguments of Abraham, and then with the yielding kindness of the long-suffering Omnipotent. Wilt thou not spare the place, O Father, says the petitioner, for the fake of fifty upright characters? Far
be be it from charity and from benevolence, like thine, to do after this unequal manner; far be it from thee to blend the fates of the virtuous with those of the wicked: far be it from .the universal judge, who weigheth all things in the even balance, to do amiss, or to deal unfairly! The answers of the Deity are uncommonly affectionate, and consistent with the goodness of the Godhead. If I find (said he) fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their fakes. But alas! Abraham, who knew the wickedness of Sodom, as well as the mercy of the power whom he addressed, was obliged to go farther. Behold, now, I have taken upon me, poor imperfect creature as I am, a compound of dust and ashes, to speak before the Lord of nature; I tremble in thy presence, and yet I approach thee. Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: thou wilt not be extremely minute to mark what is wanting; nor can it be in thy benignant nature to destroy all the city for lack only of five 1
To this the reply was agreeable to the wishes of the patriarch; for the Deity declared he would spare the city for the fake of forty and five. And thus the matter went on, requesting on the one hand, and granting on the other, till the Lord of forgiveness promised to suspend the stroke of destruction for the sake often. Perhaps the forbearance of -Heaven to the children of men, was never more finely illustrated than in this instance: and when we consider it, we shall the'less wonder at the little iuterruptions and stops that are put to the general impiety of the times. It is the grand complaint of moralists, that we live in an age far exceeding every other in point of degeneracy; that the world is much worse than it was in the days of old; and that, consequently, it is matter of astonishment the Creator doth not, for these reasons, destroy what he hath made, and hurry on in wrath, the dissolution of all things. But the history of mankind evinces, that in the earliest periods, the vices and passions as generally prevailed as at present; that mur','.-. D der, der, envy, drunkenness, and every other error, as powerfully tyranized over the human heart, as at this very hour: though, perhaps, the moderns may have made some innovations in iniquity, it is but doing the fame bad things with more art, with more fashion, or .with more refinement.
Infinite, indeed, must be the mercy, which, both at the beginning and now, preserves us from the vengeance ofHeaven; and the crimes of every age have been of sufficient magnitude to provoke the punishment, and to exercise the utmost kindness of the Deity! What, for instance, must bt the sensations of eternal perfection, at the sight of all that variety of crime perpetrated in a single day, within the precincts of every large city? What must he, who comprehends at one view all the transactions of the world, feel, as he surveys that astonishing mass of mischief, fraud, malignity, blasphemy, and meanness, committed constantly beneath his penetrating eye? Mercy, is certainlyiiis distinguished attribute.