Page images

right to command; their obligations to obey; and the great evil of sin, from the law of Moses, as being therein held forth; but might behold all these exemplified, in a most striking manner, in a series of facts. Let them but view the divine conduct in Egypt, at the Red sea, in the wilderness, &c. and it would give them a most lively picture of the DIVINE NATURE ; for here they had the HISTORY of the Deity. And let them view the conduct of the Israelites from first to last, and it would give them a most lively picture of human nature; for here they had it acted out to the life. And God's right to command, their obligations to obey, and the great evil of sin, are set in the strongest light. Nor were the ad vantages of these transactions confined to those ages; for all these things happened, and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the world are come. God is still the same, and so is human nature too. For, as face answers to face in a glass, so does the heart of man to man. O, the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! Of whom, and by whom, and to whom are all things ; to whom belongs glory for ever! And how know we but that the grand affairs of the universe are all conducted as wisely, as were these now in our view ?

To conclude ; let these four remarks be well attended to, and remembered :

1. That, in all these instances of God's permitting sin, he had a view to the manifestation of himself. They gave him opportunities to act out his heart; and so to show what he was, and how he stood affected: and he intended, by his conduct, to set himself, i. e. all his perfections, in a full, clear, strong point of light: that it might be known that he was the Lord, and that the whole earth might be filled with his glory.

2. And he intended to let his creatures give a true specimen of themselves; that it might be known what was in their hearts. But,

3. The advantages of acquaintance with God and ourselves are innumerable. We can be neither humnble, holy, nor happy, without it. So that,

4. It may easily be seen, how that God, in the permission of sin, may design to advance his own glory, and the good of his creatures. And that this was really God's design, in the instances which have been under consideration, is manifest from the five books of Moses, in which the history of these things is recorded at large. Particularly, I desire the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th chapters of Deuteronomy may be read, in this view.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

GENESIS 1. 20. Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good. W 18 DOM consists in choosing the best end, and contriving the most proper means to attain it.

The MESSIAH had been promised to our first parents, about two thousand years ago ; and the time of his advent was approaching : but the world were greatly unprepared for such an event. They did not know that they were in a fallen state, and that they needed a Redeemer and a Sanctifier. They neither knew God, nor themselves; what they were, nor what they ought to be ; nor what they needed to bring them right; and were sinking, by swift degrees, into still grosser ignorance and the most stupid idolatry. And had God suffered them all to have taken their own course, till the Mes-, SIAH's birth, ignorance and depravity would have risen to such a height as to have rendered mankind wholly unprepared for the gospel-dispensation.

Wherefore, God must interpose, and some method must be taken to check the universal spread of idolatry and ignorance, and to revive the knowledge of the true God, and of the law of nature; and to make mankind sensible of their depravity, of their guilt, and ill-desert, and need of a Redeemer and Sanctifier; and so prepare a way for the coming of Christ, and the erection of his spiritual kingdom.

With these views, about two thousand years before the birth of the Messiah, God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, and separated him from an idolatrous world, and

chose bis seed to be his people ; that, in his dealings with thein, he might bear a public testimony against idolatry, in the sight of all the nations of the earth; and, at the same time, exhibit a most exact picture of himself in his conduct, and set his character in the most glaring, striking, affecting light; that, stupid as they were, they should be, as it were, forced to see and understand what he was. And, at the same time, he would let them know what they ought to be, and the greatness of their obligations to the Deity; and turn their hearts inside out, that they might see themselves, and discern their true character, and so feel their need of a Redeemer and Sanctifier. And then he would exhibit in types and shadows, i. e. by sacrifices of atonement, and purifications for uncleanness, the nature of an atonement of Christ, and of the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit; and thus prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, and the erection of his spiritual kingdom in the world : and that not only among the Jews, thus trained up, but also among Genciles, who, in after ages, should be let into these divine dispensations and designs, and reap the benefit of all these preparatory and introductory steps.

Had Joseph not been sold, and had Jacob continued to live in the land of Canaan, with his family, and had his posterity there gradually increased, until they had filled all the land, (the Canaanites meanwhile dying off, as the Indians have done in N. E. these 130 years past,) I say, had his pos. terity gradually increased until they had filled all the land, without any uncommon changes, or any extraordinary interpositions of providence, none of the forementioned ends could have been answered. Yea, there wo’ld apparently have been the utmost danger that the Israelites would have been no better than the Canaanites had been : and God might foresee that this would infallibly be the case ; and so all his ends in separating Abraham and his seed, wholly frustrated.

On the other hand, if Joseph is sold ; if Jacob and his family move down and settle in Egypt, the chief seat of idolatry, a proper scene opens in the view of infinite wisdom, where all his wonders might be wrought; and fit opportuni, ties, he foresaw, would present for the accomplishment of all the purposes of his heart.

Nothing further was needful than for God not to hinder Joseph's brethren, and they would sell him; not to hinder Potiphar's wife, and she would get him cast into prison, where he might be prepared for, and from whence he might be raised to the highest advancement, by which many noble and God-like ends might be answered. Nothing further was needful than for God not to hinder the king of Egypt, and he wouid oppress the Israelites till they were prepared for their egression; not to hinder Pharaoh, and he would harden his heart, and refuse to let them go, until Egypt was filled with the wonderful works of God. Yea, if God hindered him not, into the Red sea he would drive head-long, hurried on by the corruptions of his heart, that, in his destruction, God might show his power, and cause his name to be declared throughout all the earth. And now the Hebrews, rescued from Pharaoh's destroying sword, by almighty power, would be in the hands of God, their deliverer, to be disciplined; to be humbled, and proved, and tried, that it might be known what was in their hearts; and that, finally, they might be prepared to enter the promised land, and execute the vengeance of the ALMIGHTY on those idolatrous nations, and be God's peculiar people, till the Messiah's coming, and the erection of his spiritual kingdom. I say, be God's peculiar people; to receive the Law from Sinai ; to be under God's immediate government; to keep the holy oracles; to preserve the predictions of the Messiah, and to answer many other noble and divine ends God had in view.

A plan, in which so much sin was to be permitted, and so much misery endured, might, by short-sighted mortals, have been thought dishonourable to God, and unhappy for the Israelites; but, under the management of infinite wisdom, it proves the direct contrary. Yea, for aught that appears, God could not have taken a better method, as things then stood in the world, to make himself known, and get honour to his great name, and make the Israelites sensible of their dependance upon him, and obligations to hiin, and engage them to perpetual obedience, than that. As it is written, “ What

« PreviousContinue »