« السابقةمتابعة »
If the will of God has eternally fixed all his operations,in relation to a certain end, this effectually precludes all influence from creatures; because their choosing the same end, which God has eternally chosen, can do nothing towards persuading him to that choice. The only possible case that will admit of God's being under influence from creatures is in the supposition, that he has not eternally devised and determined the end, and all the operations of his own government; but has left things in such a state of uncer tainty, as to invite creatures to come for. ward, and use the exertions they are capable of, to give a turn to matters, agreeing to the taste and inclination of their own minds. If the whole plan is established antecedently to the existence of creatures; then they must be made conformably to this plan, and not the plan conformably to them. To say that the plan of providence, though settled in eternity, may yet be affected by the influence of creatures, is contradictory to the supposi tion. For the plan of providence is that se ries of events, which does actually take place, and not what might, or would, have taken place, under other circumstances. The ques tion then is, is it consistent to suppose, that, from eternity, the whole system of providential measures is left so indeterminate, that either this event, or that, or another different from both, may be brought into the scheme, and that according to the temper and disposition of certain individuals of the
intelligent creation? If providence proceeds under any degree of human, or angelic, influence, it supposes, that that influence decides what was before undecided, or would have met with a different decision, had that influence been withholden. Can it be to the honour of God, or the well being of the universe, that matters should go on after this sort? Have we an honourable view of God, if we do not contemplate him, as managing all things, which come under his hand, out of regard to some great ultimate end, that may be reckoned worthy of himself? If his kingdom stands upon such a foundation, then will it prosper, so far as this great end, which he seeks, is promoted. Should adverse causes, however, break in and operate, it would suffer damage. Whatever influence, therefore, works against the grand intent of divine government, is a final evil, or an evil without remedy. What influence creatures have, if they have any, must, therefore, harmonize with the purpose of God, as it respects the final event. But how can they designedly co-operate with God, by influencing him to proper measures, such as will lead to the greatest good, if it be not already determined, in the counsels of God, what those measures are? And if this be determined, no influence can reach thein. Creatures cannot chuse what God does, and so influence him agreeably to his own will, unless his choice is aiready made; and if it be made, to what use can influence be applied, unless it be to
the unmaking, or destroying, of it? And if God gives up any of his own wise purposes, to please or gratify individual creatures; who would not desert his kingdom in disgust, and long to be under the government of one, more deserving of their confidence? To be sure that God will govern in such a manner, that he never can be taxed with partiality, with disregarding the best interest of his own kingdom, we must have evidence that he is unbiased in all his dealings, acting under no influence but that of his own will: that it is for the sake of himself, or to do honour to his own name, that all his works are performed. In this his rectitude consist; and here lies the foundation of depend. ence on him, which is one of the noblest excrcises of genuine piety.
But some may, possibly, be of opinion, that what has been advanced in this discourse is objectionable, as not comporting with the scriptures, particularly, such texts as the following. "When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to anoth-er people, He suffered no man to do them wrong; yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” Again. "For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God. Parallel with the foregoing some will consider the following. "Therefore let no man glory in men: for all things are
yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours." With these texts, perhaps, will be associated all those which speak of God's so loving the world, as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life; and of Christ's giving himself for the church; as if we might gather from such texts, that God is influenced more by his regard to men, than by any other consideration whatever. To reconcile such passages of scripture, as have now been quoted, with the leading idea in the present discourse, it may justly be observed, that nothing is contained in them, but what perfectly quadrates with the sentiment, that God is as much the last end, as he is the first cause, of all things; and that he does every thing, ultimately, for himself. There are primary and secondary, ultimate and subordinate, ends. But that, which is secondary, or subordinate, can never have influence to excite one to action. Whatever has this effect is to be reckoned the ultimate or last end. If a man, by some unhappy accident, should have one of his limbs so fractured, as to require that it be amputated, in order to save his life, and a surgeon should be called to operate upon the occasion; what would be the end of calling in the aid of the surgeon? The answer will be, to amputate the limb. This is, indeed, one end contemplated in the affair. But supposing there
were no chance of recovering the patient by severing the broken limb from the body, or supposing there were no desire to preserve life, in any manner; would there, in that case, be any motive for requiring the attendance of a surgeon? All will say, none. Preserving life, then, is the ultimate end, and that which alone stimulates to action, in the supposed case. God does many things for the sake of men; and yet he does all things for his own sake. The former is a subordi. nate, but the latter is an ultimate, end. A direct proof of this is contained in one of the texts mentioned in support of the objection. "For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God." An ex
press reason is assigned, why all things are for the sake of believers, viz. that through the thanksgiving of many, glory may redound to God. Let this object drop out of sight, viz. the glory of God, and the proposi tion, supported by it, will come to nothing. The apostle might have said, All things are for your sakes, only that glory may redound to God. The glory of God, then, is the great object regarded; and, consequently, the only thing which has influence in providing such a flow of benefits into the bosoms of the saints. The love, which God has to mankind, and even to his own elect, is not such as he bears to himself; but is of a secondary kind. Did he not infinitely delight to dignify and honour his own name, he