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dom. Were mankind divested of selfishness, which is enmity to God, they would never object to his benevolent designs, but would contemplate them with high satisfaction and joy.
2. It appears from what has been said, that the doctrine of decrees is a doctrine according to godliness, or tends to promote good works. True, it is represented by its opposers, as having an immor al tendency; but the representation is incorrect. The sabbath is made, by the impious, an occasion of much wickedness. If there were no sabbath, the wicked could not be guilty of its profanation. But does it hence follow that the holy sabbath tends to immorality? So if Christ had not come into the world, the Jews and gentiles would not have been guilty of betraying and crucifying him. But who will hence conclude, that his appearance in the flesh, his mighty works, and his spotless life naturally led to the horrid crimes of treason, perjury, blasphemy and murder, which his enemies perpetrated at the time of his passion? There is no truth of revelation, but what may be perverted, and thus made the innocent occasion of great wickedness. Yet all the doctrines of the bible have a direct tendency to promote good works. This is as true of the doctrine of decrees, as of any other doctrine. If the decrees of God were wicked, they would tend to wickedness; but since they are good, they tend to good
ness, they lead to the practice of virtue and piety. The doctrine of decrees, clearly exhibited, brings God sensibly near to men, and men sensibly near to God, and leads them to see him every where and in every thing, and to feel their entire and constant dependance upon him. It leads the righteous to deep self-abasement before God, to exalted thoughts of God, and to unshaken confidence, strong consolation, and holy joy in God. And it has encouraged and excited his children in all ages to pray, "Thy kingdom come," and to be workers together with him in the building up of Zion. These conclusions are supported by the concurrent testimony of scripture, observation, and experience. How greatly mistaken, then, are those who think and say this is a licentious doctrine, or at least a cold and dry speculation, tending to damp the flame of holy love in the hearts of christians, to diminish their desires after God, and to weaken their efforts in his cause! Enlightened christians do know that the very reverse of all this is true. Nor, unless they are exceedingly stupid, are they willing to have this great practical, comforting, animating doctrine concealed, or but barely named.— Whenever they are in a lively frame, they love to have it clearly and fully exhibited, in connection with all other truths of scripture, knowing that this is necessary to a faithful and successful declaration of all the counsel of God.
3. The doctrine of decrees is word, which he declares "is
quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, pierc ing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." It is only while the wicked either disbelieve or banish from their thoughts the doctrine under
calculated to awaken, convince and convert sinners. Many do indeed maintain, that this doctrine tends to stupify the consciences of sinners, and to give them ease while pursuing their sinful courses. Now, it is true, that unless God pours out upon sinners the convincing and converting influences of his spirit, their hard hearts consideration, that they can live will grow harder, and their blind eyes blinder, under the preaching, not only of some, but all the doctrines of revelation. There is nothing, however, in any of its doctrines, which is calculated to produce this effect; but it is wholly owing to the blinding, hardening nature of sin The doctrine of decrees, as well as all divine doctrines, although abused by sinners to the increase of their blindness and stupidity, does nevertheless naturally tend to their conviction and conversion. For whatever is calculated to promote the good work that is already begun in the hearts of saints, must have a favorable bearing towards the commencement of the same work in the hearts of sinners. But a plain and faithful exhibition of the doctrine of decrees, iends to promote the growth of holiness in the saints; and therefore it tends to bring sinners to repentance. According to God's word, they are awakened, convinced and converted by his Spirit, through his truth as the means. But the doctrine of decrees is a part of that truth, a part of that
in quiet and enjoy the pleasures of sin. The moment they are made to understand, believe and feel the truth in respect to this subject, the strong holds in which they entrenched themselves, crumble to dust; the false hopes, they cherished, vanish away; the bed of down itself. on which they reposed, becomes a bed of thorns; and they awake from their dreams of security to fear, and remorse, and anguish.—— For they perceive at once how completely the universal and unchanging decrees of God throw them and their immortal interests into his hand forever; which is to them a situation of all others the most alarming and painful. And is it not desirable that sinners should be alarmed and distressed? Is it not desirable that those who hate God and are in the way to everlasting death, should be convinced of the truth respecting their characters and prospects? Is there any reason to hope that they will ever be converted and saved, without being in some measure convinced of these things? It will, perhaps, be said after all, that the doctrine of decrees is dis
couraging to sinners. So it is, but not in the sense intended by those who use the phrase. This doctrine is calculated to discourage them from continuing any longer in sin, from taking another step in that path which is leading them to inevitable destruction. And is there any danger of making their sinful course too hard and comfortless? of throwing too many discouragements, too many obstacles in their path to ruin? Surely he who loves and would save their souls, will not spread their chosen path with roses, but will labor to plant it thick with briers and thorns, and hedge it up before
To close. It is the duty of ministers of the gospel to preach the doctrine of divine decress as plainly as possible, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear. It is their duty to preach this great and important doctrine, because it is a doctrine of revelation, and because it is so happily calculated to promote the conviction and conversion of sinners, the sanctification of saints, the prosperity of Zion, and the glory of God. Nor can ministers be faithful to God and to the souls committed to their charge, if they neglect to preach it.
most probable opinion respecting Balaam is, that he was a celebrated magician; but, had, by some means, acquired a knowledge of the true God. He was ambitious and covetous; and endeavoured to make his theoretical knowledge of God subservient to his selfish purposes. He appears to have prophesied in the name of Jehovah, and, thereby, to have obtained a celebrity, highly favorable to his sordid love of gain and honor. Thus, the exorcists, perceiving how efficacious the name of Jesus proved in the mouth of the apostle; attempted to cast out devils in the same name-adjuring them by Jesus, whom Paul preached,to come out. Thus Simon the sorcerer, finding the miracles of Philip, superior to the effects of his magic, professed christianity and afterward, offered money to the apostles, "Saying, give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost."
Balaam, no doubt, had mercenary motives, for prophesying and working wonders, for the apostle assures us, that he loved the wages of unrighteousness.— His being furnished with extraordinary powers is by no means, a singular case. God has ever conferred on wicked men such gifts as would answer his own wise and benevolent purpose. And not only Balaam may say, but, we are assured, that many will say, in the day of judgement, "Lord, Lord! have we not prophesied in thy
name, and in thy name cast out it." Balak finding that he could
not obtain his object, addressed Balaam, as in the text. "Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all." He desired to have them cursed; but, as he could not have this desire gratified; he wished Balaam to take a neutral position. As he was not suffered to do any thing, which would injure Israel; Balak was desirous at least, that he would not do any thing to advance their prosperity. This last resort of Balak, to neutralize Balaam, has been, in every age, one of the most successful stratagems of the enemy of souls, against the church. Not all the curses of his agents, in the world, nor all the open force, which they have exerted, has tended to advance his kingdom, and retard the prosperity of Zion, so much, as their taking neutral ground, and labouring to form a coalition between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. The curse of Balaam would have been harmless, compared with the insidious advice, which he gave, to cast a stumbling block before Israel. So satan and his emissaries are by far, less dangerous foes, when they are open in their at tacks; than, when concealed under the mask of friends. The church suffered less, from the curses of pagan Rome, and by ten bloody persecutions; than she, afterwards suffered, by receiving into her bosom, the myriads of lukewarm persons who would
devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works," to whom the Judge shall say, "I never knew you, Depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Balak had heard of the fame of this man. He was greatly alarmed, when he saw the Israelites encamping on the plains of Moab. In this emergency, he sent messengers unto Balaam, to come and curse Israel. And the confidence, which he had in the malediction of Balaam, is thus expressed, "I wot, that he, whom thou blessest, is blessed; and he, whom thou cursest, is cursed." Balaam appears to have heen sufficiently disposed to gratify Balak-to curse the people of God. He shifted from plan to plan--had altars erected, and sacrifices offered; but yet, he was restrained from cursing Israel-"How said he, shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied." When Balak expostulated, saying, "I took thee to curse mine enemies, and behold, thou hast blessed them altogether. Balaam made a virtue of necessity, and said, "Must I not take heed to speak that, which the Lord hath put into my mouth?" Still, however, he discovers a willingness to try every plan; every expedient, that he might obtain permission to curse Israel; but in vain. "Behold, said he, I have received commandment to bless, and He hath blessed, and I cannot reverse not, openly, curse her at all-
constrained to bless them.
vation, it may be expected, that the father of lies, in order to secure his kingdom will oppose.And as men, in a state of nature, are his willing subjects, it is easy
but yet, had no heart to bless her once delivered unto the saints. -at all. The subject, accommodat- There can be no question, with ed to the state of the church, fur- those, who believe the scriptures, nishes the following sentiment; whether it is essential, that gosThe cause of the adversary is pel truth should be propagated subserved, by want of decision in and received. The candid inquirfavor of the leading truths and er will meet with no difficulty, in duties of christianity. We shall, ascertaining the leading truths of 1. Endeavor to illustrate this our holy religion. They are ilsentiment, with respect to funda- lustrated by facts-they are illusmental truths. The leading truths trated by objections, which have of the gospel are extremely im- been answered by prophets, and portant. They are, in fact, the apostles, and Jesus Christ himfoundation of experimental and self. The holy doctrines of the practical godliness. The holy cross, which must be propagated truths, contained in the scriptures, and received, in order to salvanot only distinguish christianity from all other religions; but, from every counterfeit. Jesus came into the world, to bear witness unto the truth--was hated because he told the truth-pray- to account for the false systems of ed, Father, sanctify them through thy truth;"-laid down his life, in support of the the truth. No intimation is given, in the bible, that it is unimportant, what men believe. On the other hand, the ministers of Christ have specific directions; "Preach the gospel"—" Preach the word." And hearers, also have directions, "To receive with meekness, the engrafted word." If truth had not been highly interesting; yea, essential to christianity, the Holy Ghost would not have denounced a curse on any man; or even, an angel from heaven, who should preach another gospel. Nor would he, by Jude, have directed his people, that, they should earnestly contend for the faith, which was
religion; yea, it is easy to account for the rejection of the bible itself, which is the fountain of truth. Such has been the fact, with respect to numbers, in every age. But, if the gospel was sent to bless the world, then a denial of it, either by rejecting the scriptures, in which it is contained; or, by making them speak another language, is a curse. The propagators themselves, are under the curse of God, and they are a curse to all who listen to them. They openly do for satan, what Balaam was afraid to do for Balak. They labor, directly, to establish the kingdom of darkness-they wage war against the King of Zion. Such, however, are not the most formidable enemies of the Church. The evi