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Because a man some.
tial to a good heart. times exercises murderous intentions against his comrade, and at others thinks only of picking his pocket, it no more follows, that such exercises cannot all be the effect of divine power, than that briers and thorns, and all other noxious vegetables cannot, because some are more or less injurious than others. On the whole, the doctrine of the universal moral, as well as natural,dependence of mer, may be true, nothwithstanding any suppos ed inconsistency in it with the word, or providence, of God.
Again; it will be said, if the representation of dependence, which we have given, be just, sinners do actually perform the will of God, even in the most atrocious and of fensive instances of their conduct, and ought, therefore, to be commended, rather than blamed. This objection, I conclude, will not be persisted in, provided it can be answered by express scripture; provided an instance can be found on sacred record, in which that identical piece of conduct, in which the will of God is declared to be done, is expressly pronounced sinful. What was done by the Chaldeans, in the desolation of Jerusalem, is declared to be the work of God. God expressly declares, that he sent Nebuchadnezzar, whom he denominates his servant, upon this errand. When he was employed in this service, was he not performing the will of God? How else could he be the Lord's servant? In this it is implied, that he perform
ed service to God. But how can this be true, if, instead of doing the will of God, he, had frustrated it, in every particular? But though, as an instrument of divine vengeance upon an hypocritical nation, against which he was sent, he did what the hand and counsel of God before determined to be done, and, in this sense, did his will; yet it does not hence follow, that he was a virtuous character, or that he did his duty, or was intitled to any applause or approbation. On the other hand, it is unequivocally asserted that he incurred guilt in this hostile enterprise against the church. In the 2d of Jer. it is said, "Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first fruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord." In agreement with. this text it is said in the 10th of Isa. "Wherefore it shall come to pass, that, when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion, and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria." For the sin, which the Babylonians committed, in fulfilling the purpose and will of God against the land of Judah, they were punished by like judgments from the hand of God, when the spirit of the Medes was stirred up against them, and their land perished by the sword. That, I conclude, will be allowed to be according to the will of God, which his own counsel has determined to be done. But who ever imagined, that Peter meant to justify and commend the people of
Israel, together with Pontius Pilate, Herod, and the Gentiles, because they were gathered together to do what the hand and counsel of God determined before to be done? Their guilt was not the less for their being the instruments of providence in fulfilling an eternal decree. As if it had been foreseen, that men would reason according to the tenour of the present objection, and the Assyrian, in this way, be exculpated for vexing. and distressing Israel, and to take off the force of the plea, God says, that tho' he himself meant a salutary chastening to his people, by sending a barbarous enemy against. them, yet this was not in the heart of the enemy, but only to waste and destroy. In like manner Joseph replies to his brethren; "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good." To obviate the present objection, a distinction has been made between the preceptive and decretive will of God, against which some object, tho, I think, without proving it to be unfounded. All, I take it, will allow, that it is correct to say, that no event, which God decrees, is contrary to his will, or that it is his will it should not take place but many things are decreed which are not commanded.
instance, it was decreed, as we have seen, that Pilate, Herod, and others should conspire against the Son of God, to put him to death; but this was never commanded. How much soever we may do in fulfilling the purposes of Heaven; yet if, in this, our mean
ing is not good, not according to God; it cannot turn to our praise. To us the law of God, which is fulfilled in love, or what is enjoined in the lively oracles, is the only standard of duty, of right and wrong.
far as we yield compliance with divine precepts, we are upon a footing with pious Enoch, who had this testimony, that he pleased God. Nothing else can procure us an acquital at the bar of reason and truth.
Again; some, perhaps, will say, if God makes sin an instrument of good, it would be criminal in us to indulge feelings of op-position to it; that we ought rather to sin the more greedially, that we may cooperate with God to bring to pass the most good possible. This objection looks as if it were copied from the opposers of St. Paul, who could not endure to hear him assert, that where sin abounded grace did much more abound, or that our unrighteousness com. mendeth the righteousness of God, without subjoining then let us do evil that good may come. If so much good is to result from sin, the more sin, the better; let us, therefore, redouble our diligence, rather than slacken our hand, in the works of impiety. After advising every objector of this stamp, carefully to consult the apostle, as to his manner of replying to such insinuations, I would remark, that this objection to our doctrine, like many others, completely destroys itself. It pretends to make it our duty to sin, upon the principle that this is paving the way to
an important and desirable end. But let the objector first prove that it is not a thing im possible to sin from a motive of duty or with a view of bringing good to pass, and his plea will be entitled to a serious examination. Can it be sin for a man to do what he ought to do? I should think this as good a definition of true holiness as could be given. What tolerance to sin is there, then, in the belief that it takes place in consequence of those divine operations, by which God will bring the greatest possible glory to himself? If it be our desire to harmonize with the Deity, in that great work which he is carrying on to the final consummation of his own praise; can we be supposed even to have this desire, without an actual conformity of heart to his holy image? That is a holy purpose, which he will render sin and all other things instrumental of promoting. And can such a holy purpose be the very ground work of sin in our hearts? God does not sin by causing such a thing in creatures with a view to his own glory, unless he sins by causing the wrath of man to praise him. He may just as well be said to be the author of sin, in the same sense that he is the author of all things, which are produced by his power, without being himself morally polluted, as he can be said to have formed the crooked serpent, without having in himself any of the venom, or other qualities, of that reptile. And whenever we shall find ourselves in precisely the same relation to the system that God is, then