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nature of the whole, and contrived them to represent, and suited them to point out to us the wisdom and beauty of his grand and glorious scheme, which is too large for our present comprehension ; and too difficult to be understood, but by the help of little pictures, where the whole is contained in miniature.
5. Yea, we may venture to affirm, that of necessity it must be the case, that the nature of the parts will certainly show the nature of the whole, in a moral system, under the government of him who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,
For while he constantly acts like himself, his whole conduct will be of a piece, always like itself; and so one part of it will illustrate the nature of another; and so, from the knowledge of the nature of various parts, we may certainly argue to the nature of the whole. As, let us but diligently observe a wise and good man, who is uniform and steady in his ways; and, from repeated instances of his conduct, we shall enter into the knowledge of his temper in general, and perceive the views and designs which govern him. So, let us but attend to the divine conduct, as recorded in that book, which may justly be denominated the history of the Deity, and enter into his views and designs, in particular instances of his conduct, as there intimated ; and we may, with sufficient certainty, determine his moral character, and the general nature and design of his whole plan.
Show me, therefore, his views and designs in suffering Joseph to be sold ; Israel to be oppressed ; Pharaoh to harden his heart; Israel to murmur and rebel, and fall in the wilderness; and let me into the wisdom of his conduct, in these particular parts of his grand scheme, and then assure me that the whole system is governed by the same infinitely wise Being; and how can I doubt the wisdom of the whole, while I behold the wisdom of these particular parts? Or how can I be at a loss for the general nature of the whole, while I behold the nature of these particular parts, and firmly believe that God always acts like himself, and keeps up a constant uniformity through all the infinite varieties of cases and circumstances, that ever occur in his moral government of the world?
6. If, therefore, the plan which infinite wisdom, contrived, to bring Jacob's family into Egypt, and from thence through the Red sea and wilderness into Canaan, in which so much sin was permitted, and so much misery endured, was, all things considered, the wisest and best; as being so exactly suited to set all the perfections of God in the fullest and strongest point of light, and at the saine time to unmask their hearts, and set their absolute dependance on God, and great obligations to him, and the infinite evil of sin, in such a light, as had the most powerful tendency to induce them, with penitent, bumble, broken hearts, in an entire self-diffidence, to put their trust only in God, and be wholly devoted to him ; to fear hiin, and love him, and walk in all his ways, and keep all his commands, seeking his glory: I say, if that plan was the wisest that could have been contrived to answer these ends, and so the best suited to promote the glory of God, and the best good of the Israelites, and to answer many noble ends in that age, and in all succeeding generations; such, no doubt, must be the whole of God's moral government of the world ; in which immensely great plan so much sin is permitted, and so much misery endured : i. e. it must be the best contrived scheme possible, to advance the glory of God, and the best good of the moral system.
I am sensible there are many objections which will be apt to arise in the reader's mind, and which are capable of being put into a very plausible dress, and which, at first sight, may seem to appear quite unanswerable. Nor am I unwilling they should be set in their strongest light. It is best to look on all sides, and that with the utmost care and impartiality. And every honest reader, who sincerely desires to know the truth; to understand the reasons of the divine conduct, and to see the wisdom, glory, and beauty of his universal plan, will be naturally disposed to look up to heaven, and say, “O, thou father of lights, thou fountain of all knowledge, sensible that we lack wisdom, and encouraged by thy gracious invitation, we come to thee, who givest liberally to all that ask, nor upbraidest, nor deniest the most unworthy, who ask in the name of Christ; open thou our eyes, that we may see the wise dom of thy government, and behold the beauty of thy con.
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 eternal 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 re-, bel 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 how infinitely better would it have been, if, instead of sin and misery 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 holy 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. Buth 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 thing's 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 argument 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 be the least gleam of light, for above twenty years, in this dark affair. Yea, it grew darker, when Sime- .| on 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, venlure again to call in question the wisdom of the supreme Governor of the world, all whose ways are perfect. Remember it, () 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 perinission 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 ito self, 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 his 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 not 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, sometiines, in fits of horror, are ready to think that God made them on purpose to damn them. 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 xir.