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true, and right, and good, and a part of the perfect will of God. They are to be inwoven with our daily thoughts, to mingle with all our affections, to become ours habitually, to be ever ready for use, and steadily to control our whole course of conduct; we are always cheerfully to believe and cheerfully to obey.
It will be unnecessary to illustrate this part of the subject by an induction of more examples - I proceed therefore to observe,
III. That for the same reasons we are not to be influenced, either in our faith or in our practice, by any reference to secret things or things unrevealed. - It has been already observed, that these things were not revealed, for the very same reason that others were, viz. that we might be placed in the very best situation for obtaining eternal life. For this purpose, all the proper objects of our faith, and all the necessary and useful rules of our practice, are made known to us. Our faith, therefore, will be perfect, when we cordially receive every revealed doctrine; and our practice, when we obey every revealed precept. Neither would be perfect, were we to believe more doctrines, or obey more precepts. Whenever, therefore, we are governed, either in our belief or our conduct, by any reference to secret or unrevealed things, we render our belief less sound, our conduct less virtuous, and both less useful to ourselves, and less pleasing to God.
Among secret things, those which are usually most interesting, and most perplexing, respect, in some manner or other, the existence, character, and pleasure of our Maker, especially as connected with our final allotment in the world to come. On these, therefore, multitudes of volumes have been written, and years and ages consumed in study, fear, and sorrow, without any real benefit, and with much real injury to mankind.
It is declared in the Scriptures, that “God created all things “ for his own pleasure ; that his counsel shall stand; and that he “ will do all his pleasure.” Accordingly, we find God predicting a vast multitude of events, hundreds and thousands of years
before their accomplishment. Among these are multitudes, inseparably connected with, and dependent on the free, voluntary actions of men, and absolutely dependent on thousands and millions of such actions. Among these, also, are numbers, which may be considered as events of primary importance to the providential system; events of such a nature, as that, if they had not taken place, the whole system must have been disturbed, and become, either chiefly or entirely, a different thing from what it has actually been. Of this number are the destruction of the Jewish empire by Nebuchadnezzar; the deportation of that people to Babylon ; their re-establishment in Judea ; the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ ; the publication of the Gospel; the introduction of the Gentiles into the church ; and the final dispersion of the Jews by the Romans. That these were principal parts of the divine system will not be denied, because God predicted them as such, long before they existed. That they were accomplished by the voluntary actions of men, will no more be denied. The purpose of God, therefore, and the free and voluntary agency of man, are perfectly consistent with each other, because truths eannot be inconsistent. Yet, since men have not been able to explain the nature of this consistency, a thing which God has not thought proper to reveal, they have both doubted and denied it; and have also denied, in some instances, the purpose of God, and, in others, the freedom of human agency, both of which are abundantly declared and insisted on in the Scriptures.
It is declared in the Scriptures, that Adam apostatized from a state of holiness, and that his posterity have, in consequence of his apostacy, sustained the same moral character. But the manner and the cause of this apostacy is, to say the most, either not at all, or very imperfectly revealed. Yet it is to be feared, that
many men, of no small reputation, have spent more time in attempting to explain, and in actually perplexing, this sub ject, than in gaining the victory over sin, performing their duty, or seeking eternal life.'.
The conversion of the soul from sin to holiness is abundantly declared in the Scriptures. But it is no where declared, that the time, in which this conversion takes place in any man, shall be known to him. Of course, this time is not by the Scriptures made an object of our inquiry, nor is it at all concerned with our faith or practice. It is remarkable, that St. Paul, the time of whose conversion is at least as particularly declared as that of any other person mentioned in the Scriptures, never appeals to his knowledge of this time as the foundation of his confidence, hope, or comfort, but to entirely other evidence, particularly his faithfulness and real in the service of God. Yet how many, who call themselves Christians, insist that every convert must, of course, know the time when he became such, and demand an account of this time as the principal and indispensable evidence of his conversion. And how often, and how unscripturally, is this made the theme of public and private religious inquiry ?
That some men will be finally condemned, and that all these will be then possessed of the character of final impenitence and unbelief, are doctrines every where revealed in the Gospel. But it is no where revealed to any person, that he will be finally impenitent, and finally condemned. This fact is therefore, to every man, a secret thing, and belongs to God only, and never
That he may be impenitent in the end, and therefore condemned, every man unpossessed of the faith of assurance ought to believe ; and that, if impenitent, he will be condemned. But, that he will be impenitent, no man is warranted to believe, because it is not revealed, and because he is not warranted to distrust, or limit the mercy of God. Hence no man is bound, or can be bound, to resign himself to final misery, or to be willing to perish. We are required to be resigned to the will of God: but nothing is to us the will of God, except that which he makes known to be his will. The final condemnation of no man living has been made known to him by God. · This, therefore, can be to him no part of the will of God. Of course, resignation to future misery, if it exist, is resignation to mere misery, and in no sense resignation to the will of God. But resignation to mere misery is in no degree virtuous, but foolish and mad beyond description. Universally, whatever is secret or unrevealed, is to us nothing, and to be wholly unregarded. It is nothing as an object of belief, or a rule of conduct. It can furnish no proof of any doctrine, and no objection against it. The proof of every doctrine must be found in something which we know, and all solid objections against it must be derived from its inconsistency with something which we know. Nothing which is unknown, can ever affect what is known; nothing unrevealed, that which is revealed. Our true wisdom, therefore, our real duty, our rational hopes of salvation, must be all found in that which is revealed, and in a cordial conformity to it, in our habits, our affections, and our lives.
GOD TO BE BELIEVED RATHER THAN MAN.
ROMANS iii. 4.
6 Let God be true, but every man a liar.”
Turs chapter is justly considered as a dialogue between Saint Paul and a Jew, raising up a series of objections to the doctrines which had been taught in the preceding chapter. These doctrines the objector supposes to be inconsistent with the tenor of the Abrahamic covenant, and the adoption of the Jewish nation as the peculiar people of God. In the verse preceding the text the objector asks, whether the unbelief, attributed to that nation by the apostle, will not destroy the faithfulness of God? Saint Paul replies, “ By no means.
Let “ God be acknowledged to have spoken the truth, although eve
ry man should be found a liar;" as every man will in fact be found, who denies the truth of God, or asserts what is opposed to that truth. In other words, let God be acknowledged to have spoken truth on every occasion, although, in this acknowledgment, we should be obliged to confess that every man livving is a liar; particularly, although every man, who opposes the truth of God, either in his belief or his declarations, should be found,—as, in the end, he certainly will be found to have believed and declared falsely.
It cannot be denied, that the dispensation, to which the Jew opposes the objection in the verse preceding the text, was of a mysterious nature; involving, as the most enlightened members of that nation would naturally judge, difficulties profound and perplexing. No Jew could easily conceive, how a descendant of Abraham could, consistently with the covenant made