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it will be time for us to think of exercising the prerogatives which belong to him, in rendering evil subservient to good; but not un til then. While in the place of creatures, obedience to the divine law is the part, which properly devolves upon us. To excel in this, is to be holy as God is holy, and perfect as our Father, who is in heaven, is perfect.
Again; it will be objected against that doctrine, which considers all volitions, or moral exercises, whether righteous or unrighteous, as the product of the divine hand, that it brings saints and sinners upon a level, with respect to the efficient source of their opposite characters, as if the same fountain might send forth both salt water and fresh: that it is fathering moral pollution upon the holy Ghost, as well as moral sanctification.
This objection will be answered by a de nial of the imputation, or the thing asserted.. It is not pretended, that it is, in every res pect, the same divine efficiency, which work. eth in the believer both to will and to do,, that gives action, both internal and external, to the impenitent. As personality is ascribed to the holy Ghost, so an office is assigned him. To execute this, is all that belongs to him, in this separate capacity. His coming into the world, after the ascension of Christ, is represented as that of a Comforter, to supply the place of an absent Redeemer. He was to be in the saints a Spirit of illumina tion and sanctification, to ripen them for the kingdom of heaven. By his influences, also,
were those gifts imparted, which were need ful to the spread of the christian doctrine, to the perfecting of the saints, and to the edifying of the body of Christ. His work, as an official agent, in the mysterious Trinity, has respect only to the building up of the church, and the salvation of souls. Those divine in fluences, which have not a direct relation and tendency to this point, should not be attri buted to the holy Ghost. Though they are from the Deity; yet they are not from the Spirit, as a distinct actor in the work of re demption. Those influences, which God employs, in the advancement of his kingdom, other than what is of direct and immediate use to rear up to himself vessels of mercy and heirs of eternal life, are within the compass of what may be termed his ordinary providence. Of this class are those exercises of power, by which the world was made and is upheld, and by which life, and breath, and many other things, are communicated to all living creatures. I presume it will not be said, that because the hand of God is concerned in the production of inanimate things, that since
he causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man ;" therefore, these things are equal to the saints, in respect to their origin, as coming from the o perations of the holy Ghost. All the works of God are not fruits of the Spirit; though the power, displayed in the one case, may be neither greater nor less than in the other. "But the fruit of the Spirit," the apostle tells
us, “is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. It is said, in the beginning, when the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, that the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And Job says, By his Spirit hath he garnished the heavens." By the agency of this Spirit is the general work of providence conducted, not excluding that part of it, which involves the actions of wicked men. The same hand, which could create a thousand other evils, which are hateful both to God and man, without defiling itself, may give being to moral evil, out of regard to a common end, and in just such and so many instances, as infinite wisdom sees will be profitable to the grand result.
Once more. It will be objected to the scheme of sentiment which is presented in what we have offered upon the character and government of God, that it is not more satisfactory, and is much less to the honour of God, than to suppose he barely permits men to sin, and then overrules their sin to his own glory. If this hypothesis is more rational and more honourable to God, than the one, which it would set aside, it will be well for us to ascertain, if the task be not too dif ficult, wherein it is so. If this cannot be done, nothing will be gained by taking sides with the objector. And we may proceed upon it as a good maxim, never to shift our ground, unless we can shun a difficulty by it,
without running ourselves into another e qually great. And what is the difficulty, out of which the present objection proposes to extricate us? It is, as I suppose, the difficulty of reconciling God's chusing the existence of sin, and bringing it about by his own agency, with his essential love of holiness and hatred of sin. The better plan, which the objector offers, holds forth a God, who, without willing the existence of sin, only wills the permission of it. And can a God, who infinitely hates sin, and uniformly forbids it, in the most express terms, grant a permission to its extensive prevalence in the world? If he permits it, the reason must be because he prefers the existence to the non-existence of it. And if, for any reason whatever, he esteems it better, that it should have a being. than not, will it not as certainly follow from this, that he loves it, or feels friendly towards it, in case of permission, as in any other case? If two men, in presence of a third, should engage in a sharp contention, and even proceed to blows, and the other should stand by a calm spectator and suffer, or permit, them to abuse each other, when, with a word's speaking he might end the quarrel; would you say he had a greater abhorrence of fighting than the other two? He would not be deemed less guilty than they. But, says one, though the Deity chuses there should be no sin in the world, yet it may be better to permit, than actually interpose to hinder, it. If it be better to permit sin than restrain it, in
certain cases, it is on account of some good end, that is, in one way or another, connected with the existence of sin. And if such a reason may be assigned to justify the permission of sin, the same may be a good reason why God should actually cause its exist. ence. His character is, at least, as free from reproach upon the latter supposition as upon But some have presumed to say, that God could not prevent the introduction of sin without desroying the moral agency of man. If this be true, he will never be able in any measure to banish sin from the universe, without the banishment of moral agents. But is it so, indeed, that the bare permission of sin, on God's part, is enough to insure its existence? One answers, if God leaves men, or gives them up to themselves, they sin of course, without any positive divine efficiency to ensure it. With just as much reason I might say, that if God should withhold all influence from a plant, the consequence would be, that it would grow and bear corrupt fruit. Would not the consequence rather be, that it would perish? If by leaving men to themselves be meant continuing them as they are, and have been used to be, it is confessed that sinners, if left to them. selves, will continue to sin. But if being left to one's self ineans, that all influence is with drawn, so that, if he acts at all, it must be by his own underived strength; it is denied, that either holiness, or sin, can be exercised in such a state. Who will say, that Adam's