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Whatever wrongs may be found in the hands of others; yet righteousness is with the Lord. "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; neither shall evil dwell with thee." That mischiefs, of all descriptions, do abound in the world, which God governs, is a fact so well known as to be doubted by none. This implies no imperfection in God, as supreme ruler; it neither implies that his counsels are infected with moral impurity, nor that his government is limited. It does not imply that he lacks either wisdom or holiness, or that any thing takes place without, much less contrary to, the purpose and influence of his own providence. Heretofore we have considered it a plain scriptural idea, that God, in governing the world, or carrying into execution his eternal counsels of love and faithfulness, makes use of creatures as instruments, and particularly the church: that he redeems Jacob, in order that he may be glorified in Israel. He saves men from sin and condemnation, that he may magnify and honour his grace; that he may fulfil his eternal purpose of glorifying his own name, and proving how much he is entitled to confidence from the whole rational world. That the redemption of sinners, being a work of God, should have this for its ultimate object; that sinners should be made holy, and saved from the curse of the law, merely that the name of God might receive praise, is a doctrine, the reasonableness and propriety of which I would fain conclude none will be
very apt to question, especially of those, who accustom themselves to believe, that God is the author and the finisher of the christian's
faith. It is hoped, that none will be disposed to deny God's making use of the church, of all the subjects of saving grace, as instruments of his own glory; and that for this purpose he has called them to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ. So marvellous and astonishing a work of grace could not have been devised from eternity for an end less interesting and important. But redeeming guilty men, is but one branch of the general work of providence. This is not the only channel, in which divine operations are manifest. If God can make instruments of his saints for the fulfilling of his counsels of wisdom and goodness, will it be absurd to conceive he may do the same with others, with persons of an opposite description? You will all perceive, no doubt, from the spirit and tenour of my text, that as I have before attempted to show the divine influence upon the saints, in making them instruments of glory to God; so my object now is to bring sinners into a similar relation to God, or to show that they are instruments, by which he works, and brings to pass what he has purposed from eternity for the everlasting honour of his own great name. I am not wholly insensible of the difficulties attending this subject; nor unaware, considering how much diversity of sentiment, and how many discordant feelings have been expressed rela
tive to it, that, in discoursing upon it, I shall be likely to suggest and lay down things, which, to some, will appear exceptionable, and highly erroneous. Shall I, therefore,
wave the discussion, and resort to some easier theme, where there will be no occasion to say any thing, which all will not instantly see through and adopt without a moment's hesitancy? I think I can declare, with as much sincerity as any man living, that I have no desire to wound the feelings of any one with unwelcome and distasteful sentiments; especially of one, who has a tenderness for the cause of religion and the honour of God. And such I presume will see the magnitude and importance of the present subject as clearly as I can be suppos-ed to do; and will desire to examine it with all the assiduity, candour, and caution, that an ingenuous mind is capable of.. If it has: any thing mysterious or perplexing in it, some I know would advise to pass it over in silence, and confine one's thoughts and words. to what is more obvious and simple. But how much soever of paradox there may be in the present subject, it is, I think, of the same importance, that we should receive correct instruction upon it,and that we should imbibe just views concerning it, as that we should believe in the existence of one God, and hold his character in proper estimation. We cannot be said to have faith in God, that God, who is the object of the good man's pious affections and adoration, unless we have
some rational and enlightened views of his providence. Instead, therefore, of being deterred, by an apprehension of meeting with difficulties, from going into the subject of God's government, or the particular consideration of that dominion, which he exercises over sinful creatures, we should be the more active in pursuit of all the light which is attainable. It is not pretended, that man is capable of fathoming the Deity, or his works. Shall we, therefore, feel it a duty to reject all the information, which God has communicated in his word respecting himself? Let an eternal silence be imposed upon all those human reasonings, not grounded upon the scriptures, or not conformable to them, which aim at discovering the perfections and ways of God; but let not the express declarations of his word be encountered by any cavils or surmises, which an objecting mind can raise up against them. Had not God, who is the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, condescended to teach us upon this point; truly our way had been full of darkness, and our conclusions, of consequence, must have been subject to error. But if truth comes down to us from the Father of lights, in direct unequivocal, and plain terms, shall we hesitate, or be shy about receiving it, from an imagination, that it does not look, in all respects, consistent, or does not correspond with our views of things? These ob-servations, however they may be taken on other accounts, I hope will be of use to dis..
pose us calmly, dispassionately, and impartially to investigate the subject before us, and rest in that view of things only, which is agreeable to the oracles of truth. "Let God be true, and every man a liar," is a much better maxim, than one, which would do violence to plain scripture, rather than discredit the arrogant pretensions of man to wisdom. If the idea be scriptural, that God uses mankind, even the most depraved and: licentious, to further and accomplish his own purposes; that they are, therefore, the instruments of his moral reign, it is not enough to invalidate and set aside the doctrine, that to us it may seem to invole consequences of an unfavourable aspect. And whether such an idea does actually rest upon scripture ground, our text, methinks, will decide. It is the word of God to Babylon, a people, who had become wealthy and potent in arms,, whose pride and over-grown ambition rendered them the common enemy of mankind, and who, by their numbers and warlike skill, were enabled to subdue, and cruelly to oppress all other nations. That all nations did,, actually, bend under the burden of the Babylonian yoke, is a fact established by all the records of antiquity. The power and extent of that great monarchy is acknowledged by Daniel in his words to Belshazzar. thou king, the most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And, for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations,