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him a chosen vessel, and a faithful ambassador of his Son? Had the good thief never seen the light, or had he been killed upon any of his robberies, how could he have been converted upon the cross, where he repented of his crimes? Or how could he have heard, just before he expired, these words of eternal comfort from the mouth of our blessed Saviour, Verily, I say unto thee, To-day thou shalt be with me in Paradise,Luke xxiii. 43.

The very Heathens themselves perceived some ray of this divine truth; but they have overcast it by their impertinent and ridiculous fables. For their poets feign, that there are three fates or goddesses; one of which spins, another winds, and the third cuts off the thread of every man's life. By these gross images, they endeavour to teach us, that God only lengthens or shortens man's life at his pleasure.

As it is certain, therefore, that God hath numbered and set bounds to our days; so it is as certain, that he hath appointed, in his infinite wisdom, the means that shall convey us out of the world. If one dies in peace, and another is slain in war; if one expires in his bed, and another on the scaffold; if one perish by famine, and another is cut off by the pestilence; if one is struck with thunder, and another torn to pieces by wild beasts; if one is drowned in water, and another consumed with fire; in short, whatever way the separation of the soul and body is effected, it is not without the express leave of our heavenly Father. Therefore, when we see the strangest accidents come to pass, and the most unexpected and tragic deaths before our eyes, we should call to mind the saying of the prophet Jeremiah, when he beheld the plundering and burning of Jerusalem, "Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the

"Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the "Most High proceedeth not evil and good," Lam. iii. 37, 38. We must remember with Isaiah, "That it is "God that forms the light, and creates darkness; that "makes peace, and creates evil," ch. xlv. 7; and this exclamation of the prophet Amos should echo to the very bottom of our hearts, Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it? ch. iii. 6; that is to say, shall there be any kind of affliction or death in that place, which God hath not ordained, and directed by his wise providence? If the devil could not destroy Job's flock of sheep, Job i. nor hurry headlong into the sea the herd of swine, without his leave who holds him fast in chains, Matth viii. 32; let us persuade ourselves, that all the powers of hell and the world cannot cause us to die by a violent death, if God hath not so appointed in the counsel of his wisdom. So that if at any time a prince or magistrate should say to us, in Pilate's language, "Knowest thou not, that I have power to crucify "thee, and have power to release thee?" John xix. 10; being armed with a holy confidence, let us answer him with our Saviour, "Thou couldst have no power at all "against me, except it were given thee from above. "Without the permission and will of God thou canst "not take from me a hair of my head."

We read in the book of Judges, that when Abimelech assaulted the tower of Thebez, he intended to take it by storm; a woman cast from the tower a piece of a millstone, that fell upon his head, and broke his scull, Judg. ix. If we look farther than second causes, this accident appears altogether fortuitous, and the chance of war; but we must lift up our eyes to the Almighty hand of an all-seeing power, far more skilful than this poor

woman: for the same history tells us, that by this means God accomplished Jotham's prophecy, and rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren.

Ahab, king of Israel, had disguised himself to fight against the Syrians: a soldier of the enemy's army draws his bow at venture, and smote him between the joints of the harness, of which wound he died, and the dogs licked up the blood that run from his wound, 1 Kings xxii. A carnal and worldly mind would say, upon this occasion, that it was only an accident of war; but the Spirit of God tells us, that this happened to fulfil the prophecy of Elijah, and the dreadful threatenings which he had pronounced against the wicked prince, who, by tyrannical and devilish means, had invaded the possession of another; Thus saith the Lord, in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine, ch. xxi. 19.

When we consider the tragical death of Josiah king of Judah, it seems at first view to be altogether owing to the boiling heat of youth, which carried him contrary to all the maxims of prudence, obstinately to fight against Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, or to the strength and swiftness of his enemies, according to the complaint of the prophet Jeremiah, “ Our persecutors are swifter "than the eagles of the heaven; they pursued us upon the "mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness. The "breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord was ta"ken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow

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we shall live among the heathen," Lament. iv. 19, 20. But to understand the truth, we must enter farther into the sanctuary, and adore the wisdom of God's decree, who, before he poured down his just vengeance, and

punished the people of Israel for the many idolatries, and enormous crimes, with which they had polluted themselves, would take this good and religious prince into his eternal rest, and give him a richer and more noble crown than he wore upon earth, fulfilling, by this means, the promise which he had made him by the prophetess Huldah: "Behold therefore, I will gather thee "unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace and thine eyes shall not see all the evil "which I will bring upon this place," 2 Kings xxii. 20.

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When we meditate upon the death and passion of Jesus Christ, it seems at first sight altogether chargeable upon the envy of the Pharisees, the treachery of Judas, the mutiny of the people, the injustice of Pilate, the scoffs of Herod, and the cruelty of the Roman soldiers. But the holy apostles Peter and John, to whom our blessed Saviour had related the choicest secrets of his kingdom, consider these wicked agents as no other than the instruments which God made use of to bring about the great work of redemption; for thus they speak of it in the fourth chapter of the Acts, "Against thy ho"ly child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod "and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people "of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatso"ever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to "be done," ver. 27, 28.

If a man kills his friend ignorantly, and without design, for example, if he goes with him into a wood to hew timber, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour that he die, Deut. xix. 5. nothing can be imagined more accidental, if we look no further than second causes. But God has for

mally declared, That it is he himself that delivers such an one into the hand of him that slays him thus inadvertently. Exod. xxi. 13; and therefore to secure the innocent authors of such murders, God appointed cities of refuge for them to fly to, Num. xxxv. Josh. xx.

As, when our hour is come, all the riches in the world cannot pay our ransom, nor all the wisdom of counsels, nor the strength of kingdoms, protect us from the power of death; so, on the contrary, when it pleaseth God to preserve our lives, all the subtilty and artifice of the devil, and the power and malice of the world, cannot take them from us.

Esau, inflamed with hatred, and thirsting after revenge, forms a resolution to slay his brother; and it seems to have been on purpose to perpetrate this horrid fratricide, that he went to meet him with four hundred men; but God, who holds in his hand the hearts of all men, who turns the stony rocks into fountains of water, and the flints into rivers of oil, forced out of this hardened heart tears of love and compassion. Esau, instead of drawing his sword against his brother, embraced him in the most tender manner, fell upon his neck, kissed and wept over him, Gen. xxxiii.

Jacob's sons had wickedly conspired the death of their brother Joseph, and were ready to imbrue their hands in the blood of this innocent lamb; but by a secret and admirable providence, God put a stop to their hellish design. The sovereign Lord of the universe, who by his infinite wisdom, draws light out of darkness, made use of the most inveterate malice that could enter into the hearts of men, to accomplish his good purpose, and to raise his servant to that height of glory and honour which he had prepared for him. These inhuman

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