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derness, never saw the beauty of God's conduct towards that congregation, so neither will those, who die impenitent, ever see the beauty and glory of God's universal plan. But in heaven it will be seen.
To conclude. As all the hard thoughts of the divine conduct, which are to be found in the hearts of mankind, through a fallen, depraved, guilty world, arise entirely from our partial views and bad taste; so there is no other remedy, but, first of all, to have our hearts renewed and sanctified by di vine grace; and then to endeavour to enlarge our views of God's universal plan, and search into the nature of the divine government, and the glorious designs and noble ends which infinite wisdom has in view, and will at last accomplish.
And as the BIBLE contains an authentic history of the conduct of the Deity, for a long series of many hundred years; and, by prophetic representations, opens to our view things yet to come to pass, as far down as to the end of the world, and the general judgment, and the consummation of all things; so hither should we come, with honest minds and pure hearts, and form all our notions of God's moral perfections; the nature of his moral government, and of his views, ends, and designs, in all his works, from what we find here written. Nor ought any solutions of difficulties to be accounted right, but such as quadrate exactly with, yea, are the natural result of, scripture representations.
Some of the heathen philosophers, who knew no better, imagined there were two Gods. A good God, the author of all good in the system, whom they called OkoMASDES: and an evil God, the author of all evil in the system, whom they called ARIMANIUS. But it is enough for us to confute this hypothesis, that the Bible teaches us that there is but ONE God, and that he is absolutely supreme, and does according to his pleasure in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth ; and that his providence extends to every thing, both good and bad. And it is supposed that those remarkable words, in Isai. xlv. 6, 7. directed to Cyrus, king of Persia, where the forementioned notion of two Godo anciently prevailed, were designed in express contradiction to that doctrine. “ I am the Lord, and there is none else; I
form light, and create darkness : I make peace, and create evil : I, the LORD, do all these things."
Some, who profess to adhere to divine revelation, in order to solve the difficulties relative to God's permission of sin, affirm, it came to pass unexpectedly to the divine Being; as he was not capable of foreseeing what would be the conduct of free agents. But it is enough for us, to confute this hypothesis, that we have hundreds of instances in scripture of God's foreknowledge of the conduct of free agents, and that it is a doctrine constantly taught and inculcated in the bible*.
a Others, to solve the difficulties, have asserted that it was not in the power of God to prevent the fall of free agents, without destroying their free agency, and turning them into intelligent machines, incapable of virtue as well as of vice. But it is enough for us, to confute this hypothesis, that it is contrary to plain scripture representations, which teach us, that the man, Christ Jesus, our second Adam, was a free agent, capable of the highest virtue, and yet in a confirmed state, so that he could not sin ; as are also all the saints and angels now in heaven. From whence it appears, that it was in God's power to have confirmed all intelligences at first; and left them moral agents notwithstanding.
Others, to solve the difficulties still more fully, have not only asserted as above, but also denied the eternity of hell-torments, and affirmed the universal salvation of men and devils. But it is enough for us, to confute this hypothesis, that, instead of ts being taught in scripture, it is contrary to what those infallible writings affirm, in language as plain, and express, and repeated, as could have been expected, if God had intended to establish us ever so fully in the belief of the eternity of hell-torments. Of which more afterwards.
But it will be said, “If God certainly foreknew that man would fall, unless he interposed and undertook for their safety; and if it was in his power to have done it ; and if millions would be eternally miserable in hell if he did not, whý did not he interpose and undertake ?” Not, I dare say, for want of forethought, or of a thorough weighing of the affair, with all its consequences; for he had the whole in full view, from eternal ages. Nor will any pretend it was absolutely without any end at all; for an infinitely wise Being acis always upon design.
* See this proved at large in Mr. Edwards on Liberty, pages 98--116.
“ Now, God, of his infinite mercy, grant, that by a diligent attention to the divine oracles, and through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we may come to such an understanding of this dispensation of his providence, as may tend to create in us the greatest dread of sin, and the highest veneration for the divine majesty; and show us our entire, absolute dependance on God, and infinite obligations to him ; that we may learn to be perfectly self-diffident; to trust wholly in God, and live wholly to him, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory in the church, world without end." Amen.
Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good. Were the supreme Monarch of the universe, an arbitrary, despotic being, conducting without any regard to what is fitting and best, having no reason or motive for what he doth, nor any end in view, all our inquiries and researches into the wisdom of God, in the permission of sin, must be for ever in vain. If he makes his will his only rule of action, and wills as he does without any reason or motive, a stop, an eternal stop, ought to be put to all inquiries : for no reason is to be sought for a thing which is done absolutely, without any reason at all. But if the supreme monarch of the universe is a Being of infinite wisdom, and always chooses what is best, and does what is most firtiog, working all things according to the COUNSEL of his own will, (Eph. i. 11.) then his universal plan must be, yea, we may be quite certain that it actually is, perfect in wisdomn, glory, and beauty. And now it becomes us to awaken all the powers of our souls to attention ; and it is worth our while to dwell whole days, and months, and years, on this greatest and noblest of all themes. And if we feel that the immense greatness of the plan confounds us, and find ourselves still at a loss, yet being assured the whole is perfect in beauty, we will look into it as far as we can ; and hasten to prepare for the world of light above, where the glories of this grand scheme will open to our view, and afford matter of the sweetest contemplation, and most divine delight, through eternal ages. Since we are but just emerged out of non-exist
ence; have so very small an acquaintance with God's world, and so feeble and weak a taste ; so poor a discernment of what is most beautiful and best, it must not seem strange to us if we can see but a little way into the glories of the divine plan. Yet, knowing that it is so very exceeding glorious, being chosen by infinite wisdom before all other possible plans, although infinite in number and variety, in the view of omniscience, we may ardently long to look into it, and search the scriptures daily ; study the nature of the Deity, and lift up our eyes to heaven for divine light and instruction.
All that hath been said in the foregoing sermons being kept in mind, that we may now enter directly into a view of the wisdom of God in the permission of sin, and lay a foundation for the solution of all objections, we must look back to the beginning of God's works, and view his conduct, from step to step, and inquire into the reasons of each as we go along. And God grant us attentive minds, and right and enlarged views, and a good taste to discern the beauty and glory of his universal plan! And let us begin as the Bible begins; for that best of books is to be our constant guide ; the man of our counsel ; a light to our feet, and a lamp to our paths, in all the way we go.
1. A grand and noble THEATRE was erected by God; a standing, visible evidence of his eternal power and Godhead; completely furnished out, as a place of habitation for man; and as the grand stage of action and scene of all God's wonderful works, till the day of judgment. What use is to be made of the material system, after the day of judgment, shall be considered in its place.
When we read the first verse in Genesis, “ In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," with what follows in that chapter, we behold the whole material system arising out of nothing into being, by God's almighty power. First it exists a Chaos, without form and roid, buried in profound darkness ; but in six days, the whole is set in a most harınonious and beautiful order; a visible and noble specimen of the infinite power, wisdom, and goodness of the GREAT ETERNAL. And how know we but that the intellectual system, reduced to so near a resemblance of a chaos, by the revolt and prevailing influence of the angels who left their first estate, will yet.