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most interesting pieces of human nature, the children of a family. One of these fair flowers was lately in our possession :-we saw it bud; we watched its opening; we admired its rising excellencies; and pleased ourselves with the hope that it would flourish for years to come:-we fostered it with care; we guarded it with vigilance; and earnestly recommended it to the protection of Him, who had formed and fashioned it with such inimitable skill. But, after all our unavailing solicitude, and all our passionate supplications, we saw it languish, and fade, and die! Such was the divine will concerning us—and now, while we wander about the place, of which this blooming plant was once the choicest ornament, we endeavour to soothe our affiction with the consolatory assertion of the Prophet: “ The flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”
THE MINISTRATION OF CONDEMNATION
AND OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
The ministration of condemnation, and the ministration of righteousness, are terms by which the apostle expresses the Law and the Gospel. The Law is called the ministration of condemnation, because, while it forbids sin under the penalty of death, its holy commandment discovers sin in every heart; and thus every mouth is stopped, and all the world becomes guilty before God. The Gospel is called the ministration of righteousness, because it provides a righteousness for those whom the Law discovers to have none of their own, and offers justification freely, by grace, to those who could not be justified by the deeds of the Law.
Now both these ministrations are said to be glorious; the ministration of condemnation being glory; the ministration of righteousness exceeding in glory.
The glory of the Law is inferred from the circumstances which attended its first promulgation; the thunderings, the lightnings, the voices, the smoke, the thick darkness, the shaking of the mount, the sound of the trumpet, the fear of the people, and the brightness of Moses's countenance. For the superior glory of the Gospel, an appeal is made to our own reason. We naturally conclude that mercy is more glorious than judgment. This conclusion the apostle admits as just, and grounds upon it the doctrine-" If the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.”
The marks of glory, which attended the promulgation of the Law on Mount Sinai, were not
* 2 Cor. iii. 9.
empty signs of a thing which did not really exist. Condemnation, if it be righteous condemnation, is a glorious thing. It has, indeed, an awful glory, yet a true glory. It is the display of justice; the vindication of God's law; and the final triumph of good over evil. And, surely, that which manifests the justice of God, asserts the honour of his holy law, and assigns to the transgressors of it their deserved portion, must be glorious.
Our conceptions of this awful subject may be, in some degree, assisted, if we attend to that representation of it which we see in human tribunals. However faint and imperfect an image this may be of the righteous judgment of God, even in this shadow we see something of that glory which belongs to the substance. We cannot attend to the proceedings of an assize, without being struck with the triumph of truth, order, and justice, over deceit, licentiousness, and wrong. We see it in the most awful instances of condemnation.
Consider the case of a criminal who is tried for a capital offence. In an open court, before
many witnesses, the charges are advanced against him, the evidences of his guilt produced. Men, who bear him no ill-will, who feel for his situation, constrained by the force of testimony, pronounce him guilty, though they know that the probable consequence will be death. An enlightened and humane judge is compelled to pronounce the sentence of condemnation; and, after the allowed time, his life is taken away. Now, mournful as such an example may be, is there nothing glorious in it? Is it not glorious that the peace,
property, and the lives of honest men, should be thus guarded ? Does not the law appear glorious, when it shews itself thus armed with power, and able to take such terrible vengeance on those who transgress its bounds?
Yet, how vastly inferior is the glory of an earthly judicature to that of the higher judgment, of which it is a faint representation! For, in the first place, it is on a very small scale; and, in the next, however carefully its proceedings may be conducted, they are still liable to error. The prisoner may be acquitted, though guilty; he may be condemned, though innocent. And, even if justly condemned, he
suffer while worse men escape.
suffer on the testimony of worse men. The jury, on whose verdict his life depends, are erring, sinful men; nay, even the judge himself, though not raised to that high office without full proof of wisdom and integrity, is a fallible mortal, and not without sin; yea, the very law on which the judgment proceeds, is not free from imperfections.
Yet, under all these disadvantages, there is a glory in the ministration of condemnation, as it is exercised among men. How glorious then the terrible, but just judgment of God!
Before that tribunal will be placed, not a few offenders, in a small part of a small kingdom, but the whole world, and all the generations of men. And how excellent, in every circumstance, will be the proceedings! The law, by wbich all must be tried, perfectly righteous and good; the judge unerring, holy, infinitely just; no room left for false or doubtful testimony; no darkness or disguise to screen the workers of iniquity; the sentence final, unchangeable! What an honour will then be put on God's law, when an everlasting distinction shall be made between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not!
Nevertheless, there is nothing which we are more slow to see, than the glory that shines in the ministration of condemnation. We are all too deeply concerned to be unprejudiced judges in this matter. Is the prisoner at the bar a fit person to pronounce on the excellency of those proceedings by which he was sentenced to die? Now we are all transgressors of the law; all guilty before God; all subject to condemnation. How inadequate then must be our conceptions of this awful subject, when self-love pleads so strongly against the truth! And though good men have their judgments rectified in a great measure, yet all prejudice is not taken away.
If we would know the real character and glory of God's righteous judgment, we must ask those sinless angels and inhabitants of heaven, who shall be witnesses of the august proceedings. With them will be no sentiment but profound admiration of the holiness of God, and a sacred joy when they behold his ven