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SAINTS, AS THEY APPEAR TO GOD.
“He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither bath he seen perverseness
in Israel."—Numbers, xxiii. 21.
BALAK, the king of Moab, being alarmed at the approach of Israel, sent for Balaam, the son of Beor, to come and curse his invading enemy. But though Balaam was hostile to Israel, and to the God of Israel, and wished to comply with Balak's request, yet God, by a controlling influence over his heart, disposed him to bless, instead of cursing Israel. This Balaam expressly declares in the verse before the text. “Behold, I have received commandment to bless : and he hath blessed, and I cannot reverse it." The next words are,
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel." Jacob and Israel are here synonymous appellations, and both denote Israelites indeed, or the peculiar friends and favorites of God. This warrants us to say,
That God sees no moral deformity or imperfections in saints.
Though this proposition seems to be paradoxical, yet I shall endeavor to illustrate the truth and propriety of it, by various representations of scripture. I shall begin with observing,
That the scripture represents particular saints as perfect. God says that “Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations." He gives the same character to Job. 66 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil ??? David says, “ Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” And speaking of the wicked, he says, " They shoot in secret at the perfect.” Solomon likewise uses the same phraseology. “For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it." Paul says of
himself and other apostles, “ We speak wisdom among them that are perfect." All these passages seem to coincide with the text, and represent individual saints as pure and perfect in the sight of God. But we further find saints in general represented in the same light. God speaking of his Church, by the prophet Isaiah, says, “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.". This is representing the Church as perfectly beautiful and amiable. In the same style, God speaks of his Church in the sixty-second chapter of Isaiah. “Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.” We meet with a similar representation of the saints, in the third chapter of Malachi. " Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another : and the Lord hearkened, and heard it: and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.” If saints are God's jewels, his crown of glory, and his royal diadem; then he must view them as completely adorned with the beauties of holiness. And this is the uniform representation of the Church in Solomon's Song, that is allowed to be a sacred dialogue between Christ and his Church, in which they mutually speak of each other's moral beauties and excellencies. The Church represents Christ as supremely amiable and glorious : while, on the other hand, Christ represents the Church as morally beautiful, amiable, and without the least imperfection. “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.” And the New Testament writers tell us, that “Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Thus saints are represented as pure, perfect, spotless, and without the least moral defect, deformity, or imperfection. He beholds no iniquity in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel.
But how can this be true ? Does not the all-seeing and heart-searching God view saints just as they are ? they really free from all deformity and imperfections? Or do they view themselves in this light? The Church seems to acknowledge her uncomeliness, by saying, “ Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards ; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” Does not Paul speak the language of all true saints,
when he cries," wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?" How then can God be said to view saints as perfectly amiable, without the least spot or moral deformity? He must have some peculiar views of them, to justify and explain such representations as have been mentioned. And it is true, that he actually does view them in a peculiar light. He sees their whole character at one clear and comprehensive view. He sees them as they have been, as they are, and as they will be, all at once. He has one entire and intuitive view of them from eternity unto eternity. He loved them before the foundation of the world; he loves them now; and always will love them. They have always been the objects of his complacency and delight For in his view they have always been possessed of all the amiable qualities that will adorn and beautify them, through every period of their existence. And in scripture God speaks of them as they appear to him, perfectly amiable and excellent. Nor is this either strange or absurd, since, as far as we are able, we view things in such a complex and extensive light. The parent does not view the want of strength, the want of knowledge, or the want of speech, in his infant child, as a blemish or imperfection. But why not? The reason is, he views the infant as a man in miniature. He sees him not only as he is, but as he will be, when age shall have given him strength, intelligence, vivacity, speech, and sprightliness. And when he arrives at years of manhood, the parent no longer sees in him the follies and foibles of childhood and youth, but views him as he is, and probably will be in the future scenes of life. We are continually viewing objects in this complex and comprehensive light. All our valuable possessions derive their greatest worth and importance from viewing them, not merely as what they are at present, but as what they will be in their future connections and consequences. And since God has one intuitive, comprehensive view of saints, there is a propriety in his representing them as they now appear to him, after their present deformity and imperfection shall have been swallowed up, and they shall have arrived at the perfection of moral beauty and excellence. For,
1. Viewing them in this light, he sees them all as completely forgiven. And complete forgiveness is complete reconciliation. When we completely forgive any of our fellow men who have injured us, we become completely reconciled to them, and view them as amiable as we did before they had offended, and indeed more amiable. It is true, there is a partial forgiveness, which implies only a partial reconciliation ; but perfect forgiveness always implies perfect reconciliation. So, having perfectly