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duct, that we may not only justify thy ways to men, but still, more than ever, love and fear that fearful and glorious name of thine, the LORD our God!" For there is not one point, in natural or revealed religion, attended with so great difficulties as this: therefore, we greatly need to have our hearts purified, and our minds enlightened by divine grace, that, with a good taste, and an unbiassed judgment, we may search into the hidden mysteries of God's great and eterual kingdom.
The objections are as follow: 1.“ How could it be for the honour of the supreme Lord and Governor of the universe, to suffer satan, his enemy, by his lies, to deceive, seduce, and persuade innocent man to rebel against his sacred Majesty, and subject himself and all his race to death and ruin?”
2.“ How could it be to the best good of the moral system, that this lower world, instead of being inhabited by a race of incarnate angels, ever celebrating the praises of their great Creator, perfectly happy in his image and favour, should sink down into so near a resemblance to hell, in wickedness and wo? O bow infinitely better would it have been, if, instead of sin and inisery here, and eternal pains of hell hereafter, to be suffered by such innumerable multitudes, all, had been for ever holy and happy!”
3. “ How can it be made to appear, that sin and misery were at all needful, much less absolutely necessary, in a system originally boly and happy, to answer any valuable ends ? Would it not be to limit the holy One of Israel, to say, that he could find out no other way so good as this to exalt God, and render the system holy and happy?"
Besides, 4. “ If God wills sin, then it seems sin is agreeable to his will. And if, from all eternity, he decreed the misery of his creatures, then it seems their misery suits him. Both which, as is granted on all hands, are directly contrary to reason and to scripture."
Before we attempt a direct answer to these objections, let three or four things be premised.
1. Be it so, that God's permitting sin and misery to enter into the world, appears to us ever so dark; yet this is no ar gument at all against the wisdom, glory, and beauty of the divine conduct, in this affair. For there have been instances of the divine conduct, in all appearance dark to perfection, which, in the result, have proved perfect in wisdom and beauty. When Jacob saw his son's coat all stained with blood, he had nothing but darkness and death before his eyes. “ An evil beast,” said he, “ hath devoured him. Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.” Wherefore, he “rent his clothes, and
. put on sackcloth, and mourned for his son, and refused to be comforted.” Nor had he the least gleam of light, for above twenty years, in this dark affair. Yea, it grew darker, when Simeon was left bound in Egypt, never to be released, unless Benjamin went also. “Joseph is not," says he, "and Simeon is not. And ye will take Benjamin away! All these things are against me.” So he spake, and so he thought; for so things appeared ; but yet, afterwards, he viewed the whole plan in a very different light, as being contrived and brought about by infinite wisdom and goodness. And doubtless he was ready to say, “Never let me, a poor short-sighted creature, venture again to call in question the wisdom of the supreme Governor of the world, all whose ways are perfect. Remember it, O my soul, from this time forward. And, for the future, let me learn to do my duty, and cheerfully leave God to order all things as he pleases ; firmly believing all his conduct to be wise, whether I can see through it or not."
And how dark to Moses, fled into the land of Midian to save his life, must the divine conduct appear, in suffering his brethren, the children of Israel, to be so cruelly used by Pharaoh ! Nor had he the least gleam of light, in this dark affair, for forty years. Yet it afterwards appeared to be full of the wonderful wisdom of God, as we have before observed. And, no doubt, Moses saw it to his abundant satisfaction.
But as for the inhabitants of Egypt, when they heard that Pharaoh, their grand monarch, and all his hosts were drowned in the Red sea ; and as for the Israelites, whose carcasses were doomed to fall in the wilderness ; these dispensations were to them so dark, and they in such a temper, that it was near or quite impossible they should see the wisdom of God in
them. Nor was it strange they could not see. But this leads me to add,
2. That it is not at all strange that God's conduct, in the permission of sin, should appear exceeding dark to us, how wise, glorious, and beautiful soever it is in itself, and in the eyes of God. (1.) Because our views of God's grand plan are so very imperfect. When God has finished his scheme, all holy beings will easily see the beauty of it; for then it will appear what he had in view, and how wisely every thing was ordered to answer the noblest and best ends. It was easy, when Jacob beheld Joseph governor over all the land of Egypt, for him to see through an affair, which before, for a long course of years, had been absolutely inexplicable. Besides, (2.) It is not strange that God's present plan of government appears so dark to us, however divine and glorious it is in itself, considering how ill a taste we have. It is not to be expected that fallen creatures, greatly alienated from the Deity, and of a temper quite contrary to his, should be suited with his plan of government. If wicked men are enemies to God, and enemies to his law, as the Scriptures teach*, they are not in a capacity to discern a plan all over divine. It was not strange that the Egyptians could not see the wisdom of God in the overthrow of Pharaoh and bis hosts. Nor was it strange that the wicked Israelites were so far from seeing the wisdom of God, in dooming their carcasses to fall in the wilderness, that they were rather disposed to blaspheme his name. Yea, they began their blasphemy before they received their doom. And when they might have gone right on to Canaan, had it. pot been their own fault, they began to say, that God had brought them out of Egypt on purpose to destroy themt: just as some desperate sinners, who are deaf to all the calls of the gospel, and refuse to march for the heavenly Canaan, sometimes, in fits of horror, are ready to think that God made them on purpose to damn thein. It is easy for us to see the unreasonableness and perverseness of the children of Israel ; and impenitent, obstinate sinners are evidently quite as much to blame: but you cannot make them see it ; nor could Moses
* Romans viii. 7. VOL. II.
† Numbers xiv.
make the Israelites see it in their case. Nor is it to be expected that creatures, so far sunk into depravity and guilt, will be disposed to justify God and his ways, although all his dispensations are ever so wise and just. But then their dislike to the divine government, be it ever so great, is no sign but that it is perfectly wise, holy, just, and good. Moses thought not the less honourably of God's conduct in the overthrow of Pharaoh, because it looked so dark to the Egyptians. Nor do the inhabitants of heaven think the less honourably of God's conduct in the permission and punishment of sin, in general, because it looks so dark to obstinate sinners. God has given us an instance:
About 109 years before the Babylonish captivity, after the Israelites had been in the promised laud 693 years, and, by their perverseness, had wore out God's patience, so that God was provoked to give them up to their hearts' lusts, Isaiah was sent with this awful message to them: “Go and tell the people, hear ye, indeed, but understand not : see ye, indeed, but perceive not: make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes,” &c. " Then,” said I, " Lord, how long?" And he answered, “until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and ihe land be utterly desolate*.” Than which nothing could look more dark to the guilty Jews, thus doomed to destruction. Yet, to the inhabitants of heaven, God's conduct, in all this, appeared to be unutterably glorious : so that, upon the occasion, they even "cried,” as under the deepest impressions, " Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts ; the whole earth is full of his glory.” So again, in the 19th chapter of the Revelations, we have the heavenly hosts represented as in the highest ecstasy of joy, on occasion of the destruction of mystical Babylon; which, yet, no doubt, when it comes to pass, will appear inexpressibly dark and glorious to the Pope, and his party; although the poor persecuted saints in Popish countries will be ready to join the heavenly hosts in their songs of praise. Yea,
3. When I think over former dispensations of Providence;
* Isaiah ri.
Joseph's affair, and how dark it appeared to Jacob; the case of the Israelites in sore bondage in Egypt, and how dark it appeared to Moses, fled into Midian ; and that this Juob and this Moses were the best of men, and the favourites of heaven; and yet the divine conduct to them was absolutely unaccountable : and as I look along through the bible, I can think of other instances of the like nature, one after another, till I come to the crucifixion of Christ; the most horrid sin that ever was committed : an affair exceeding dark to the disciples, the best of men then in the world, and who were even ready, things looked so dark, to give up all hopes of his being the Messiah. I say, when I consider these, I cannot but conclude, that if the most holy and knowing men on earth were entirely unable to solve the forementioned difficulties, relative to the permission of sin, yet it would be no just inducement 10 doubt of the divine wisdom. Yea,
4. However dark the affair appears, or however unanswerable the objections may seem to be, yet we have strict demonstration that, of all possible plans, this is the best ; for, before the foundation of the world, it was at God's election to create, or not to create. And of all possible systems, he had his choice: nor was there any thing to bias his judgment; nor was it possible he should make a mistake ; all things were open and naked before bim; he knew which was the best; and he chose this : and, therefore, this, to him, appeared preferable to any other; and, therefore, it was really the best.
And wirat, then, if we are not able fully to solve the difficulties? Is it not altogether reasonable to conclude, that it is owing to our not seeing the whole plan, or to our want of a good taste, or both? It is certain, that we are very far from a full view of the wbole plan. We came into existence, as it were, but yesterday. We are just emerging out of nonentity: we still border on non-existence; we are but half awake, if so much. When we enter into the eternal world, if this short period is well spent, we may hope to have our intellectual powers quite awake, and to be in a better capacity to search into the nature, and discern the beauties of God's eternal kingdom. And besides the narrowness of our present views, our taste, too, is at present much vitiated. The best of