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How much does this sovereignty appear in the manner in which life is terminated ! “ One dieth “ in his full strength, being wholly at ease and
quiet : His breasts are full of milk, and his “ bones are moistened with marrow : and another “ dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never “eateth with pleasure."
17. We cannot consider the affiictions of the people of God, without admiring his sovereignty. This character appears written on his conduct, whether we compare the situation of one Christian with that of another, or the sufferings of the righteous in general with those of the wicked.
Do we compare the situation of one of the children of God with that of another; we perceive great reason humbly to adore his fovereignty. One has a great share of prosperity. He enjoys the blefling of health. His family increases. He is favoured, not with abundance only, but with affluence. His “barns are filled with “ plenty, and his presses burst with new wine." Another long outlives the rest of his family, only to languish under disease, and to struggle with the most abject poverty. He is fingled out as an example of what almighty power can accomplish, in supporting under the feverest pressure of atiliction. At his expence, the Supreme Disposer teaches other Christians, what he has a right to do with them, if he pleases.
If we compare the situation of the wicked with that of the righteous, we must often observe, that the former enjoy a far greater share of prosperity 24
than h Job xxj. 23.-25.
than the latter. It is impossible, at any rate, to judge of a man's state for eternity from his external circumstances. For “ the righteous, and the
wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: “no man knoweth love or hatred, by all that is “ before them. All things come alike to all, there “ is one event to the righteous and to the wicked, “ to the good, and to the clean, and to the un“ clean k." While this ordination is an argument for a future state of retribution, it at the same time bears a striking impress of divine sovereignty.
18. If we attend to the dispensations of his providence with respect to the kingdoms of this world, we perceive the same character, only on a larger fcale. Nations are disposed of in the fame manner as individuals. God raises up a nation from small beginnings, gives it power and extent of dominion, brings it to the zenith of its glory, and at length hurls it into destruction. His sovereign pleasure is that awful die by which the fate of empires is determined. It is he who “ speaks “ concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, " to build and to plant it.” To him it equally belongs to “ fpeak concerning a nation, and con“cerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull “ down, and to destroy it!.” What the heathen fabled concerning their Neptune, is true of our God. He “ fitteth upon the flood," whether natural or political. “ The Lord fitteth King for “ ever.” Indeed, we may still perceive the operation of second causes, in one hape or another, Wisdom and valour are means of aggrandizement.
Luxury, k Ecclef. ix. 1, 2.
1 Jer xviii. 7. 9.
Luxury, pride, and the counsels of folly, conspire to accomplish the fall of a nation. But these fecondary causes are pre-ordained, managed, and overruled by God, for the fulfilment of his own purposes. So strongly was Babylon fortified, that it does not appear that Cyrus could have taken it in the ordinary way of attack. But the watchmen neglected to shut the gates on that night in which Bellhazzar made his feast; when, as would seem, diffipation had diffused its influence over the whole city. This secondary cause, however, the negligence of the watchmen, was immediately under the direction of God. For, several hundred years before, he had said; “ The gates shall “ not be shut m.” Nebuchadnezzar was one of those arrogant worms who vie with God for the honour of sovereignty.--He flattered himself, in consequence of his extensive conquests, that it was bis prerogative to dispose of kingdoms, and of nations. But God, to teach this haughty monarch that the work was wholly his own, levels him with the brute creation ; and as he declares the awful event before it takes place, he at the same time informs Nebuchadnezzar, that it was the defign of this judgment, that he might“ know that “ the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of mea, “ and giveth it to whomsoever he will ?."
19. As fovereignty is the attribute of our Lord Jesus Christ, he displays it in the management of his spiritual kingdom. He selected three disciples from the rest to be witnesses of his glorious transfiguration, The same disciples also had the diftinguishing honour of witnessing his great humi. liation P. The rest had no right to say to him, Wherefore is this distinction? They could not accuse him of partiality. For he may dispense his favours to whomsoever he will.--He wrought miracles, as the fruit of his sovereign pleasure. When the leper came to him, saying,
tinguishing m Ifa. alv. I, a Dan, iv, 30.32.
o Mat. xvii. I.
Lord, if " thou wilt, thou canst make me clean;" he ac. knowledged the justness of the afcription, and in confirmation of it accomplished his cure. He replied, “I will; be thou clean ?." Now, as all the miracles which Christ wrought on the bodies of men, are signs of the miracles of grace which he works on their fouls; the analogy is lost, if he is not equally sovereign in the latter. Is the removal of the bodily leprosy a symbol of the cure of the more fatal leprosy of fin? And can the latter be the fruit of the finner's will, while the former depends on the will of God?
Christ sovereignly dispenses gifts to his Church, whether ordinary or extļaordinary. “ some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some,
evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers '." A pastor had no right to complain that he was not an evangelift ; nor an evangelift, that he was not endowed with the gifts of a prophet ; nor a prophet, that he had not an apostolic mission. For faith the apostle ; “ Unto every one of us is given
grace, according to the measure of the gift of “ Christs;" that is, just as he is pleased to give.
6. He gave
p Mat. xxvi. 36, 37.
q Chap, viii. 2, 3.
r Eph. iv. 11.
s Ver. 7.
Elsewhere, this is attributed to the sovereign dispensation of the Spirit of Christ.
“ To one is gi“ ven by the Spirit, the word of wisdom ; to ano“ ther the word of knowledge by the same Spi
rit; to another the working of miracles; to “ another prophecy ; to another discerning of
spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues ; to “ another the interpretation of tongues. But all " these worketh that one and the self-fame Spi“rit, dividing to every man severally as he will. “-Now hath God set the members, every one “ of them in the body, as it pleased him.-And “ God hath fet fome in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets t,” &c.
The Head of the Church displays the same fovereignty in regard to that measure of success which he gives his servants in his work. It has been often seen, that the most able and laborious have had reason to complain that they “ have la“ boured in vain;" while those, who have not equalled them in either of these respects, have been far more successful. A schismatical spirit early discovered itself in the Church. One
preferred Paul to Apollos; another, Apollos to Paul ; and a third, Cephas to both. Their pretence for fuch a preference, was the benefit they had received by the ministry of one or other of these. But the apostle shows the folly of such conduct, from a confideration of the sovereignty of God, as the only reason of the success of his servants.
“ Who “ is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by
t i Cor, xii. 8.-11. IS. 28.