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of his brethren. "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: For God did send me before you to preserve life." God had a good design in governing the sinful conduct of Joseph's brethren; and when they saw this good design happily accomplished, they could have no ground to regret the taking place of that series of actions and events, by which it was brought about. They could not have been sorry for this, without being sorry for God's conduct, and for the accomplishment of his holy and benevolent design; which would have been totally inconsistent with godly sorrow for their own sins. God was not sorry, that their sinful conduct had taken place, and they had no more reason to be sorry, on that account. When they really repented (as we know they did) they loathed and abhorred themselves for sin itself, and not for its taking place, under the divine government. This is the very language of their hearts, when they were brought to repentance. "And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us; and we would not hear: therefore is this distress come upon us." They saw the intrinsic turpitude, malignity, and criminality of their intentions and designs, and with self-reproach, self-loathing, and self-condemnation, acknowledged their just desert of punishment from the hand of God. This was genuine repentance and godly sorrow, and essentially different from a sorrow, that their sins had taken place, and that God's design had been accomplished. The apostle Paul makes this distinction between godly sorrow and the sorrow of the world, in his description of true repentance. "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." The sorrow of
the world, is the sorrow that arises from an event's taking place; and this worketh death, because there is no remedy for it. If we ought to be sorry, all things considered, that any event has taken place, then it is utterly impossible, that either God, or his holy creatures, can be completely blessed. But if there be no cause to be sorry, all things considered, that any action or event has taken place; then sinners may loath and abhor their sins, as God loaths and abhors them, and yet be completely happy. Godly sorrow, or true repentance, is not only consistent with, but absolutely necessary to, the highest happiness of sinners. While they condemn and loath their own conduct, they may rejoice forever in the conduct of God towards themselves, and all other dependent beings.
Finally, if it be true, that the actions of men may be properly ascribed both to God and to themselves; then it is of great importance for mankind to believe and acknowledge this truth. It runs through the whole Bible, and stands inseparably connected with all God's conduct towards his creatures, and with all their conduct towards him and one another. It is so far from casting any darkness or obscurity over the Scriptures, that it throws peculiar light upon all the doctrines and duties of the gospel, and upon all the works of God and man, in the dispensations of providence and grace. While we see the consistency of human and divine agency in all the actions of men, we can read the sacred volume with great edification and delight, and clearly discern the heart and hand of both God and man in all the small as well as great events, which take place in the world. But without seeing and believing this truth, not only the world, but the Bible, must appear to us full of darkness and mystery, which it will be out of our power to penetrate or remove.
It is, therefore, of as much importance to see and believe the connexion and consistency of divine agency in human actions, as it is, to see God, ourselves, and all intelligent beings, in a clear and true light; and to know how we ought to feel and conduct towards them. It is only in the view of this truth, that all holy creatures will be the most completely happy, and all unholy ones the most completely miserable, through the boundless ages of eternity. It highly behoves every person to look into and understand this most interesting subject. It will be no excuse to say, that he cannot understand it, while he neglects to examine it with a fixt, deliberate, and impartial attention. Those who do not know and love it in this world, must know and hate it forever, which will be the consummation of their future misery.
MEN HAVE A NATURAL, BUT NOT A MORAL POWER, TO PREVENT WHAT GOD HAS DECREED.
ACTS xxvii, 31.
Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
THE history of Paul's voyage to Italy, is one of the most affecting and instructive narratives in the word of God. It displays his power, wisdom, and goodness, in governing the winds and waves, and the hearts and hands of men, in the most trying and distressing circumstances. Paul set sail in company with nearly three hundred persons, for a dangerous voyage in a dangerous season of the year, and in direct opposition to his own opinion and advice. These ominous circumstances undoubtedly spread a gloom over the minds of the whole company, and made them leave the last sight of land, with heavy hearts. Though the weather was in their favour at first; yet there soon arose a tempestuous wind, which obliged them to lighten the ship, and commit themselves to the mercy of the waves. While they were in this situation, neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and the storm continued and increased, until all hope of safety was lost. At length, Paul stood up and addressed their desponding minds, in this pathetick and consoling language: "Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer; for there shall be no loss of any man's life
among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me
this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve; saying, Fear not Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God that it will be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island." "But, when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; and sounded, and found it twenty fathoms. Then fearing lest they should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for day. And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour, as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved." This seasonable and solemn address had the desired effect, and proved the occasion of saving the lives of the whole company. For they complied with his advice, and took every precaution which their dangerous situation required. "And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to the land." This is the connexion of the words of the text; and in this connexion they plainly imply, that those who sailed with Paul, had natural power to frustrate the decrees of God. For he had decreed that Paul should stand before Cæsar; and that those who were with him in the shipwreck, should get safe to land. But yet, if the sailors had left the ship, as they once intended, they would have frustrated these divine purposes. For notwithstanding God had revealed these purposes to Paul, and he firmly believed they should be fulfilled; yet he expressly said to the centurion and to the soldiers, "Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved."