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the god of this world blinds the minds of them that believe not,
XI. The nature of Divine Illumination,
XU. The effects of Divine IHumination,
I bring you good tidings of great joy. Luke ii. 10.
Psalm xcvii. 11. -There was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt; but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. Exodwe x. 22, 23:
GREAT offence hath been taken at the answer the Assembly of Divines have given to this question, whut are the decrees of God? Answer. The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his own will, whereby for his oron glory hi hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass
. Often hath it been said, “ If God fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass, then he fore-ordained sin.” As though it were evidently the greatest absurdity in nature, to suppose, that God really thought it best in the whole, that sin ever should exist in the world he had made. And I suppose, it is generally taken for granted, that it had been much better, if sin and misery had been for ever unknown; and looked upon one of the most accountable things, that God ever suffered affairs in his world to take such a course as they have. I do not imagine mankind would ever have thought of disputing God's right to lay out a universal plan, had the plan appeared to them wise and good. We do not dispute our superior's righi, in time of war, to lay out a plan of operation for an ensuing campaign, although it is expected it will cost many a precious life, when on the whole we think the plan is wise and good. But while mankind take for granted, that the present universal plan is unwise and bad, all things going wrong, they can by no means believe that troin eternal ages it was contrived by infinite wisdom and goodness ; but are under a necessity to suppose, that they have taken a different course from what God intended, and turned out contrary to his original design and expectation; and that he is really disappointed and grieved. ---And doubtless, if God is disappointed and grieved, all the inhabitants of heaven are very sorry too; so that the grief and sorrow is universal in the world above. And if it is universal there, it may well be universal here. And this disappointment, grief, and sorrow, is likely to be eternal, as the wicked, according to Scripture, must be eternally miserable. And thus, it seems, bell will be fuil of the groans of the damned, for ever lost and undone; and heaven full of disappointment and grief, God and all boly Beings heartily sorry that things have coibe to such an issue. And where will be the triumph and joy? If God is disappointed and grieved, and angels and saints in heaven are grieved, and poor sinners for ever lost, there seeins to be nothing but griet in the whole system ; not one being perfectly suited, unless that very worst of all beings, who is called the old serpent, the devil : who yet is the very one that, above all, was finally to be disappointed, according to the ancient Oracle, the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head.
A chiet design of the following Sermons, is to rectify these mistaken notions and apprehensions. Not by proposing mere theories, but by turning the reader to a certain light, which shines in this dark and benighted world, the only sure guide we poor mortals have, and to which we do well to give heed, (2 Pet. i. 19.) I mean, the holy Scriptures; but for which, I think, we might have groped in total darkness, as, to this particular, unable ever to have extricated ourselves.
It was necessary, that the true character of Jesus Christ should be determined, in order to open the wisdom of God's universal plan to view. This therefore is attempted in the first Sermon. And it was equally necessary that the final success of Christ's undertakings should be brought into view, to rectify some mistakes as to matters of fact : and this is attempled in the next. And the reader may see the method I have taken to give light to the main subject, by a careful perusal of the following Sermous on the Wisdom of God in the permission of Sin.
And these Sermons are the rather published at this season, when the state of the world and of the Church appears so exceeding gloomy and dark, and still darker times are by many expected, as they are calculated to give consolation to such as fear the Lord, and are disposed to hearken to his holy word. A firm belief of the supreme Godhead of our Saviour, who now sits at the head of the universe, conducting all things, and whose love to his Church is as fervent as it was when he hung on the Cross; and a realizing sense of that glorious day's approaching, when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the eurth, as the waters do the sea ; together with an insight into the nature and wisdom of God's universal governinent, may afford abundant support, let the present storm rise ever so high, and the times grow ever so dark.
Bethlem, March 21, 1758.