« VorigeDoorgaan »
not think they so fully comprehend the contrary, as to feel certain, that either man cannot be free, or God cannot govern the world. Certainly the providential government of God, over the hearts and ways of men, though most absolute, is not such but that, if they do well
, they are praise-worthy'; and if they do not well, the sin lieth at their own door.
Neither let it be imagined that the criminality of a bad action is taken away, or at all extenuated, because it will be over-ruled for good. Actions are good or evil, according to the nature of them, and the intention of the agent, and not according to undesigned consequences. When we act wickedly, and with a wicked mind, its being productive of happy effects, alters nothing in regard to our blame-worthiness. In the divine decrees, and in the divine providence, “ Whatever is, is right :” but in the conduct of creatures, many things that are, are not at all the less wrong. God's governing all things, so as to make them subserve his wise and holy designs, should not lead us to think any more favorably of our own, or of our neighbor's, foolish and sinful actions. Yet,
2. The belief that God orders all events, should teach us patience and entire submission, whatever evils may befal us, and by whatever means they may be brought upon us. For this, we have the example of David, on a most trying occasion. When Shimei came out and cursed him most bitterly, as he was fleeing from his rebellious soni Absalom; and Abishai said to him,
Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head.” David meekly replied, “ Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him.” However we may do well to be angry at the wicked instruments of what we suffer ; yet to God, who orders it in righteousness, unmurmuring resignation ever becomes us.
3. This doctrine may well afford strong consolation to believers, in the darkest and most perilous times. Why art thou cast down, O my soul,” says the Psalmist," and why art thou disquieted in me ? Hope thou in God.” And again, “ The Lord reigneth ; let the earth rejoice : let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof."
Good men delight in the doctrines of God's unalterable decrees, and all-governing Providence ; not because they think these doctrines imply Pagan fatalism, or at all exculpate human misconduct ; but because in these alone, can they find solid ground of rest for their souls, in regard to their own safety, or the safety of the universe. Let the selfdetermining wills of fallen, or of mutable creatures, be supposed to act independently and uncontrolably, they see no certainty that present gloomy and distressing scenes, will ever have a happy termination ; or that things may not always proceed from bad to worse. They see no prospect of any thing but anarchy and contingence, to all eternity. But let them be told, and firmly believe, that a Being of infinite goodness and unerring wisdom, steadily guides and powerfully governs the whole creation—That not a sparrow falls to the ground, nor a single hair of any one's head can perish, without the permission and ordering of their heavenly Father—That there are immutable, divine decrees, over which, neither the swelling ocean, nor the madness of the people ; neither the pride of kings, nor the power of devils, can possibly ever pass-Let all this be fully confirmed to them, and the hearts of the righteous are at rest. Thus stayed on God, they are kept in perfect peace. Hence it is written, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”
4. From this doctrine it may be seen, whom we ought to fear, as well as of what we have no reason
to be afraid. “ Hear now this,” says Jeremiah, “O foolish people, and without understanding ; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not: Fear ye not me, saith the Lord; will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass ; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail : though they roar, yet can they not pass over it.”
What madness is in the heart of the sons of men ! They will tremble at the sound of a shaken leaf, and are afraid of their own shadow, while of God Almighty they have no fear! They profane his holy name, trample under foot his sacred laws, and slight the gospel of his grace, without apprehension of any danger!
But such hardened, graceless sinners, are not the only persons that fall under reproof in this particular. Sincere christians are often driven into sin, or detered from duty, by that fear of man which bringeth a snare ; while they have not a due fear of God before their eyes. Let such pay a more suitable regard to the needful admonition of our Saviour, Luke xii. 4, 5, “I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear : Fear him who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; Yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
CHARITY, THE ESSENCE OF MORAL VIRTUE.
1 TIMOTHY I. 5.
Now, the end of the commandment is charity.
NEXT to what man is to believe concerning God, what duty God requires of man, is necessary to be understood. In this chapter, the apostle tells of some at that time, who desired to be teachers of the law ; understanding neither what they said, nor whereof they affirmed. And it may be the case with some at all times, who think themselves capable of preaching the gospel, that they are ignorant of the spirit and end of the moral law-—the eternal rule and standard of right. This is the case, not only when the law is supposed to be still a covenant of works, by the personal obedience of which a sinner may be justified; but also when it is conceived of and inculcated as a rule of life, in a loose, vague, and superficial manner.
In order to speak correctly, or think accurately, on any subject or branch of science, the first principles of it must be rightly understood, and well ascertained. As in architecture, so in divinity and morals, it is necessary to begin at the foundation. By reducing all virtue and duty to a focal point, or radical princi