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PREFACE.

GREAT offence hath been taken at the answer the Assembly of Divines have given to this question, What 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 own glory he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Often hath it been said, “If God foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, then he foreordained sin.” As though it were evidently the greatest absurdity in nature, to suppose that God really thought it best, on 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 forever unknown; and looked upon as one of the most unaccountable things, that God ever suffered affairs in this 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 right, 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 from eternal ages it was contrived by infinite wisdom and goodness; but are under a necessity to suppose, that they have taken aa 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, hell will be full of the groans of the damned, forever lost and undone ; and heaven full of disappointment and grief, God and all holy beings heartily sorry that things have come 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 forever lost, there seems to be nothing but grief 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 chief 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. 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 undertaking should be brought into view, to rectify some mistakes as to matters of fact; and this is attempted 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 sermons 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 Savior, 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 earth, as the waters do the sea;” together with an insight into the nature and wisdom of God's universal government, may afford abundant support, let the present storm rise ever so high, and the times grow ever so dark.

JOSEPH BELLAMY. BETHLEM, March 21, 1758.

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