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could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?”
Yea, it was a plan not only suited to be beneficial in that age, but in all succeeding generations ; and that in more instances than can well be enumerated. Particularly, it has furnished us with a history of the Deity, and with a HISTORY of HUMAN NATURE. Such a history as is indeed of infinite value : for every thing is exemplified in facts; by which the mind is instructed more clearly, and the heart reached more effectually, than in any other way.
The invisible God, whom no eye hath seen, or can see, and of whom it is so difficult for us, in this benighted world, to frame just conceptions, is brought upon the stage; and he acts out his nature before our eyes, with a design to set his true character in a clear and striking light. Here we see, as it were with our eyes, how he fore-ordained whatsoever came to pass ; how he laid out the whole plan from the selling of Joseph to his advancement; and to Jacob's going down into Egypt; and how they should be oppressed and brought into bondage, and how they should finally be brought forth, and led in the wilderness, and prepared for Canaan, &c. And we see the wisdom, glory, and beauty of his plan. Here we see what a regard he has for his own honour, and how his whole plan is suited to set him in that infinitely honourable point of light, which so exactly becomes him, as he is by nature, God, and by original right, the supreme Lord and Governor of the world. Here we see his resolution to maintain his authority, in his conduct to Pharaoh, that haughty rebel, who bid hiin defiance, and stoutly refused to let Israel go. Here we see his sovereign grace and self-moving goodness, as it were, forcing the infatuated Israelites from their beloved Egypt, and their beloved idols; and when he had the highest provocations to destroy them, how he wrought for his great name's sake, until he had prepared them for, and brought them into, the promised land. And how, in the mean time, he set his hatred of their sins in the clearest and strongest light; commanding the earth to open its mouth and swallow up hundreds, and the plague to go forth, from time to time, and cut down thousands in a moment; yea, dooming
that whole generation to wander and fall in the wilderness for their crimes, reserving the good land for their posterity. Here we see him exercising his sovereignty, when the Iraelites and the Egyptians both deserved destruction, and to have been buried alive in the Red sea together; he had mercy on whom he would have mercy; and whom he would, he gave up to hardness of heart and rain. And after the Israelites had been in the wilderness above a year, and had sufficiently shown what they were, and carried their provocation so high, that divine justice said, “ Let me alone, that I may destroy them in a moment,” still he wrought for his great name's sake, and had mercy on them, because be would bare mercy on them; and was gracious to them, because he would be gracious to them : i. e. from his self-moving goodness and sovereign grace*. And by all, we see that not any thing whatsoever is able to frustrate God's design, or hinder the faithful accomplishment of his promise to Abraham, that to his seed he would give the land of Canaan. . At the saine time, we have HUMAN NATURE brought upon the stage, and experiments made upon the heart of man, in a great variety; whereby its true temper is as certainly determined
* Exodus xXxii. 29. NUMBERS xiv. Prom these dispensations, which were acknowledged to be right by the Jews, St. Paul was able to justify the divine conduet, in his day, in casting off the Jews, and calling the Gentiles. Romana ix. “ If God had a right to give up Pharaoh to hardness of heart, and to destruction, in the days of old, as ye Jews own; why not you now?-If the exercises of God's grace were sovereign then to your fathers, who deserred, God being judge, to be all consumed in a moment; why may not 'the Gentiles, notwithstanding their ill deserts, be now called and saved, from the same sovereign grace! God used to act as a sovereigo; why may he not still ? and if, in one instance, why not in another altogether similar?” Nor could the Jew fairly evade the force of this reasoning. And if we should only suppose, that Pharaoh after he was drowned, went to hell, and that the unbelieving Jews of that age, who were cast off by God for their infidelity, were eternally lost, then we have the doctrine of reproba. tion, which has been so much misunderstood and misrepresented, exemplised in facts. For whatsoever God does in time, that he, from all eternity, intended to do. Yea, and that which is right for God to do in time, he had a right, from eternity, to determine to do. Yea, if God, in PACT, governs the world WELL, then he did WELL to determine to govern it as he does. Reasonable creatures would never object against God's laying out a universal plan, if the plan did but suit their taste.
as was ever the vature of any thing in the natural world, by the great Sir Isaac Newton*...
So that, on these, as well as many other accounts, that plan was not only for the honour of God, and good of the Israelites, but for the benefit of mankind in all succeeding generations.
And how know we but that it was designed by the infinitely wise God, as a little kind of picture, in which we might see, in miniature, the nature of God's government of the whole moral system, and the reasons of his permitting sin and misery to enter into the world he had made? Which brings me,
Secondly. After having viewed the wisdom of God in the permission of sin, in various plain instances, to proceed humbly to search into the wisdom of God, in ever permitting sin and misery to enter the world.:,
And, 1. As all God's works are uniform, so we may justly argue, from the wisdom and beauty of particular parts, to the wisdom and beauty of the whole. As God's nature is always the same, and as he always aets like himself, so, therefore, his works are always harmonious and consistent. So that if we can see the wisdom of God in the permission of sin in some instances, we may justly argue to his wisdom in his
* OBJECTION. “But it can never be supposed that the true character of human nature, in general, can be decided from the perverse conduct of the Israel. ites in the wilderness.”
ANSWER. Was not their conduct, then, of a piece with the general tenour of their conduct, from that time and forward, for fifteen hundred years, when they slew their prophets, yea, and crucified the Son of God ? Acts vii. 51, 52.
OBJ. “If it was, yet it is not to be supposed, that every nation would have been so wicked and perverse as the Jews were, if under like circumstances."
Ans. But it is the common character of an apostate, fallen world, that they are “ dead in sin.” Eph. ii. 1, 2, 3.
OBJ.-“ These words were spoken of the Gentiles, and so are nothing to the purpose.”
Ans. Seeing, then, (according to these men,) the character of mankind cannot be learned from what is said in the Old or New Testament, of Jews or Gentiles; but we, in this age and nation are quite another kind of creatures, so benevalent, so good, so virtuous; methinks the Old and New Testaments are writings not suited to our case ; as they are not adapted to men of our character. And perhaps this is one reason those ancient writings are in so low credit with many in the British dominions ; and Plato begins to be more admired than Moscs, or St. Paul.
whole grand scheme. Yea, and from the wisdom, glory, and beautı of particular parts, we may be rationally convinced, that God's grand scheme is perfect in wisdom, glory, and beauty, although it be so incomprehensibly great, as to confound our understandings. If we certainly know that God's works are all uniform, and if there is one small part that we can understand and comprehend, and if we see this is perfectly wise, we may be assured the whole is so too; although when we try to look into it, we feel our minds quite overwhelmed with its incomprehensible greatness. . 2. Yea, were there no particular instance in wbich we could see the wisdom of God in the permission of sin, yet, froin the perfections of the divine nature alone, we have such full evidence that he must always act in the wisestand best manner, as that we ought not in the least to doubt it.
In the days of eternity, long before the foundation of the world, this system, now in existence, and this plan which now takes place, and all other possible systemis, and all other possible plans, more in number perhaps than the very sands on the sea-shore, all equally lay open to the Divine view, and one as easy to Almightiness as another. He had his choice. He had none to please but himself; beside him there was no Being. He had a perfectly good taste, and nothing to bias his judgment, and was infinite in wisdom : this he chose ; and this, of all possible systems, therefore, was the best, infmite wisdom and perfect rectitude being judges. If, therefore, the whole were as absolutely incomprehensible by us as it is by children of four years old, yet we ought firmly to believe the whole to be perfect in wisdom, glory, and beauty.
3. But if all God's works are uniform, as has been said, we may not only argue from the wisdom of particular parts to the wisdom of the whole, but also from the special nature of particular parts to the special nature of the whole; and so, from a right idea of particular parts, which we are able to comprebend, we may have some right conceptions of the whole, although the whole is too great for our conception. And so here is a clue which will lead us to a right view of the true nature of the whole moral system, and help us, at least, to some partial view of the wisdom, glory, and beauty of the whole.
4. And, indeed, it seems to have been God's design, in this state of instruction and discipline, where we first come into existence, and, from small beginnings, are to grow up to a more full knowledge of God, and insight into his moral government of the world; the contemplation of which will afford the most intense delight to all holy beings, throughout eternal ages. I say, it seems to have been God's design to suit things to the present weakness of our capacities, by representing the general nature of the whole moral system, in some select parts of it, giving us a kind of a picture of the whole, in miniature, to lead us to some right notions of the nature of the whole.
It is certain, that as all God's works are uniform, amidst all their infinite variety, so it has been his method, in his lesser works in the moral world, designedly to give a faint image of his greater, and hereby prepare the way for their being more easily understood. So the redemption of Israel out of Egypt was designed as a shadow of our spiritual redemption by Christ; and the deliverance of the Jews out of Babylon, was designed as a resemblance of the deliverance of the Christian church out of mystical Babylon. And there are almost innumerable instances of the like nature in scripture. Yea, the whole Jewish dispensation was evidently designed to be emblematical. So, indeed, was every thing in the natural world, from which metaphors and allusions are constantly brought, by Christ and his apostles, to represent and illustrate spiritual and divine things, as well as from the Jewish dispensation. And indeed, this was workman-like, and becoming the infinite wisdom of the great conTRIVER and FORMER of all things, to whom all his works were known from the beginning, and who designed this lower world as the grand stage of action for moral agents, so to order things in all his works, and in all his dispensations, as, that one thing should give light to another; things in the natural world, to things in the moral; things in the Jewish dispensation, to things in the Christian.
It would, therefore, be perfectly analagous to the rest of God's works, if he had designed some eminent parts of his grand plan of moral government to contain, in miniature, the