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more be supposed on God's part, than only his leaving them to themselves; or not upholding in them, and constantly invigorating, a virtuous disposition.
And as, in this way, we can account for the existence of all manner of evil ; so we can thus under-' stand how it is possible for God to bring about whatsoever comes to pass, without his being the actor, or maker, or instigator, of any thing that is not perfectly good. When He does not cause light, there will be darkness. When He does not make peace, there will be evil. The darkness takes place according to his appointment, with the same exactness and certainty, as if He actually created it; and so does evil of every kind. What He determines to permit, knowing perfectly the circumstances and dispositions of every agent concerned, will as infallibly come to pass, as what he determines to do himself, or to effect by his own positive influence. The king's heart, and the rivers of water ; the waves of the sea, and the tumults of the people, are in the hand of the Lord, to all important intents and purposes, if it be only true that He restrains them, or lets them run ; stilleth them, or suffereth them to rage, just as he sees fit.
In this sense, I conceive, it is to be understood, that God forms the light, and creates darkness ; makes peace, and creates evil. He has the absolute government—the perfect control the entire superintendency, of all these things.
We have now only to consider, what is the
proper improvement of this doctrine. And,
1. According to the foregoing statement of it, we ought not to improve it for the excusing of any iniquity or imprudence, in ourselves or others.
When any folly has been committed or any mischief has been done, some are ready to say, It was so ordered; as if therefore nobody was to be blamed.
But this is a false inference, from just premises. True, it was so ordered of God ; and ordered right. eously and wisely : but it was so ordered by the doer of the mischief also ; and ordered carelessly, perhaps, or wickedly. You will say, It must have been so, and the actor could not have done otherwise : but, I say, he might have done otherwise, if he would. It is true, there is a kind of necessity in the actions of men. They necessarily act according to their own choice; and they necessarily choose to act according to their own disposition. Under this kind of necessity God himself acts. It is impossible for him to do, because it is impossible for him to will, that which is contrary to his own nature.
He necessarily wills and does, what is agreeable to his moral perfections. But such a necessity as this, is so far from being inconsistent with freedom, that it is essential to all free agency. Actions which can and do take place, contrary to the inclination of the agent, are not his actions. He has no command over them ; and therefore can deserve no praise or blame for them.
The necssity of acting according to our own minds, is ail the necessity which need be supposed, when we suppose that all our actions were decreed, and are ordered of God. A creature that acts accord. ing to any laws of nature, and not at perfect random, without any self-government, acts in such a manner that He who knows what is in him, may fore-know all his actions ; and in such a manner that He in whose hand his times are, may govern all his volitions. Men follow their several courses, as freely as the rivers of water, and with a higher kind of freedom ; yet, since they run agrecably to their own inclination, and cannot do otherwise, a Being omniscient and omnipotent, can calculate before hand all their motions ; can keep them in the channels decreed for them, and can turn them whithersoever he will. If any do not comprehend this, yet let them
not think they so fully comprehend the contrary, as to feel certain, that either man cannot be free, or God cannot govern the world. Certainly the providen. tial government of God,
over the hearts and ways of men, though most absolute, is not such but that, if they do well, they are praise-worthy ; and if they do not well, the sin lieth at their own door.
Neither let it be imagined that the criminality of a bad action is taken away, or at all extenuated, because it will be over-ruled for good. Actions are good or evil, according to the nature of them, and the inten. tion of the agent, and not according to undesigned consequences. When we act wickedly, and with a wicked mind, its being productive of happy effects, alters nothing in regard to our blame-worthiness. In the divine decrees, and in the divine providence, " Whatever is, is right :" but in the coaduct of creatures, many things that are, are not at all the less wrong. God's governing all things, so as to make them subserve his wise and holy designs, should not lead us to think any more favorably of our own, or of our neighbor's, foolish and sinful actions. Yet,
2. The belief that God orders all events, should teach us patience and entire submission, whatever evils may befal us, and by whatever means they may be brought upon us. For this, we have the example of David, on a most trying occasion. When Shimei came out and cursed him most bitterly, as he was fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom; and Abishai said to him, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king ? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head.” David meekly replied, “ Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him.” However we may do well to be angry at the wicked instruments of what we suffer ; yet to God, who orders it in righteousness, unmurmuring resignation ever becomes us.
3. This doctrine may well afford strong consolation to believers, in the darkest and most perilous times. “? Why art thou cast down, O my soul,” says the Psalmist," and why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God.” And again, “ Î'he Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice : let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof."
Good men delight in the doctrines of God's unalterable decrees, and all-governing Providence ; not because they think these doctrines imply Pagan fatalism, or at all exculpate human misconduct ; but because in these alone, can they find solid ground of rest for their souls, in regard to their own safety, or the safety of the universe. Let the selfdetermining wills of fallen, or of mutable creatures, be supposed to act independently and uncontrolably, they see no certainty that present gloomy and distressing scenes, will ever have a happy termination ; or that things may not always proceed from bad to worse. They see no prospect of any thing but anarchy and contingence, to all eternity. But let them be told, and firmly believe, that a Being of infinite goodness and unerring wisdom, steadily guides and powerfully governs the whole creation-That not a sparrow falls to the ground, nor a single hair of any one's head can perish, without the permission and ordering of their heavenly Father—That there are immutable, divine decrees, over which, neither the swelling ocean, nor the madness of the people ; neither the pride of kings, nor the power of devils, can possibly ever pass-Let all this be fully confirmed to them, and the hearts of the righteous are at rest. Thus stayed on God, they are kept in perfect peace. Hence it is written, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings—that saith unto Zion, Tl.y God reigneth!”
4. From this doctrine it may be seen, whom we ought to fear, as well as of what we have no reason
to be afraid. “ Hear now this,” says Jeremiah, “O foolish people, and without understanding which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not: Fear ye not me, saith the Lord; will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass ; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail : though they roar, yet can they not pass over it.”
What madness is in the heart of the sons of men ! They will tremble at the sound of a shaken leaf, and are afraid of their own shadow, while of God Almighty they have no fear ! They profane his holy name, trample under foot his sacred laws, and slight the gospel of his grace, without apprehension of any danger!
But such hardened, graceless sinners, are not the only persons that fall under reproof in this particular. Sincere christians are often driven into sin, or detered from duty, by that fear of man which bringeth a snare ; while they have not a due fear of God before their eyes. Let such pay a more suitable regard to the needful admonition of our Saviour, Luke xii. 4, 5, “ I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear : Fear him who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell ; Yea, I say unto you, Fear him."