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themselves, but treat them according to their own free, voluntary conduct. It is just as important, that God should ascribe the actions of men to themselves, as that he should finally judge the world in righteousness. And now it is easy to see,
2. The importance of ascribing men's actions to God as well as to themselves. He is really concerned in all their actions, and it is as important, that his agency should be brought into view, as that theirs should. For his character can no more be known, without ascribing his agency to himself, than their characters can be known, without ascribing their agency to themselves. God was as really concerned in the whole affair of selling Joseph into Egypt, as his brethren were. And his agency was of as much importance as theirs, nay, it was of much greater importance; for he proposed the end, appointed the agents, and guided every step they took to bring it to pass. Joseph's brethren had a cruel and malignant design in their conduct; but God had a most wise and benevolent design in it. This Joseph believed and told his brethren so. "As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." Had the whole story of this important event been related, without once mentioning the agency of God in it, his astonishing wisdom and goodness, in preserving Joseph, his father's family, and the whole nation of Egypt, would have been kept out of sight, and, of consequence, he would have been robbed of the glory which was due to his name. In this view, it was highly important, that the actions of Joseph's brethren should be ascribed to the agency and overruling providence of God. And it is equally important, that all the actions of
both saints and sinners should be ascribed to the divine agency. Hence we find, that the inspired writers every where represent all those graces and virtues, by which saints are formed for heaven, to the power and operation of the Deity upon their hearts. The apostle speaking of himself and other christians, who were desirous of, and prepared for heaven, says, "Now he that wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who hath also given unto us the earnest of the Spirit." On the other hand, we find the exercises and conduct of sinners, by which they are formed for destruction, ascribed to the operation of God upon their hearts. "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory?" As the glory of God could not have been displayed, in sending Joseph into Egypt to save millions from impending destruction, unless the conduct of Joseph's brethren had been ascribed to God; so the glory of God in saving the elect, and destroying the non-elect, can never be displayed, without ascribing the actions of all mankind to Him, who works in men both to will and to do of his good pleasure. In a word, it is of as much importance, that the actions of men should be ascribed both to God and to themselves, as it is that the greatest good of the universe should be promoted. For this ultimately depends upon a clear and full display of the divine as well as
human agency, in the conduct of mankind, from the beginning to the end of time.
1. In the view of this subject, we learn when it is proper to ascribe the actions of men to themselves, and when it is proper to ascribe them to God. It appears from what has been said in this discourse, that the inspired writers sometimes ascribe the actions of men to themselves, without bringing the divine agency into view; and sometimes they ascribe them to God, without bringing human agency into view; and there is a perfect propriety in these two different modes of representing human actions. Whenever men are required or forbidden to act, and whenever they are approved or condemned for acting, there is a propriety in ascribing their actions to themselves, without any reference to the divine efficiency. It is their own free, voluntary agency, which alone constitutes their virtue or vice, and which renders them worthy of either praise or blame. Though they always act under a divine influence; yet that influence neither increases their virtue, nor diminishes their guilt, and of consequenceought never to be brought into view, when they are to be praised or blamed for their conduct. But when the power, wisdom, goodness, or sovereignty of God in governing their views and actions, are to be displayed, then it is proper to mention his, and only his agency in the case. Accordingly we find the sacred writers always observe strict propriety in ascribing the actions of men, either to themselves, or to the Deity. This is exemplified in the history of Joseph's brethren. When their guilt is to be brought into view and condemed they are said to sell Joseph into Egypt; but
when the wisdom and goodness of God are to be displayed, he, and not they, is said to send him thither. So when Pharaoh is to be blamed, he is said to harden his own heart; but when the divine sovereignty is to be acknowledged, God is said to harden his heart. And so again, when the guilt of the crucifiers of Christ is mentioned, they are said to perpetrate the horrid deed, with wicked hands; but when the benevolent design of the Deity is exhibited, the hand, as well as the counsel of God, is said to be concerned in bringing about the event. If we carry this idea in our minds, we can easily expound some passages of Scripture, which have been often misunderstood and misapplied. Among others, the following texts have given great trouble to expositors. Psalm cxix, 36, "Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to. covetousness." Psalm cxli, 4, "Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity." Isaiah Ixiii, 17, "O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways? and hardened our heart from thy fear?" Romans vi, 17, "But God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin." James i, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." And chapter iii, 14, 15, 16, 17, "But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory
not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." In these passages it is denied, that the bad actions of men may be ascribed to God, and equally denied on the other side, that the good actions of men may be ascribed to themselves: but yet it is asserted in these same passages, that the agency of God is concerned in disposing men both to good and evil, or in their good and bad actions. Here is no difficulty, if we only allow, that there is a propriety sometimes, in ascribing the actions 'of men wholly to themselves, and sometimes in ascribing their actions wholly to God. It is proper sometimes to ascribe men's good actions wholly to themselves, and sometimes equally proper to ascribe their bad actions wholly to themselves. While on the other hand, it is sometimes proper to ascribe men's good actions wholly to God, and sometimes equally proper to ascribe their bad actions wholly to him, This single idea will solve a seeming difficulty, which runs through the Bible.
2. Since the Scripture ascribes all the actions of men to God as well as to themselves, we may justly conclude, that the divine agency is as much concerned in their bad, as in their good actions. Many are disposed to make a distinction here, and to ascribe only the good actions of men to the divine agency, while they ascribe their bad ones to the divine permission. But there appears no ground for this distinction in Scripture or reason. Men are no more