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world ; nor left all things to mere chance; but himself, in infinite wisdom, has laid out an universal plan; a plan perfect in glory and beauty. No mortal, that loves his plan, will think of disputing his right to lay it. And no mortal, that loves God himself; that loves his law, and loves his gospel, can be an enemy to his universal plan ; for they all partake of the same nature, and shine forth in the same kind of beauty ; holy, just, and good.
Oye seed of Jacob ! Joseph is safe, and Benjamin is safe ; the honour God is safe, and the good of the system is safe ; all is in good hands, and under the conduct of infinite wisdom. For the counsel of the Lord shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure. (Isai. xlvi. 10.) Wherefore, set your hearts at rest. For let the state of the world and of the church look ever so dark, you may safely trust in the Lord, and stay yourselves upon your God, who is engaged in honour to conduct all well: and, for his GREAT NAME's SAKE, he will not fail to do it. (See Ezek. xx.) You therefore, may, with the utmost serenity, leave the government of the world with him, and put an implicit faith in his wisdom and fidelity, and have nothing to do but your duty. Nothing, but to attend upon the business he has marked out for you; like a faithful soldier in an army, who trusts his general to conduct affairs, while he devotes himself to the business he is set about; and the more he rejoices in the wisdom of his general, the more alert will he be in discharging the duties of a soldier. Wherefore rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice. Let this be your first maxim, The Lord reigneth ; and this your practice, Let the earth rejoice. (Psalm xcvii. 1.)
But it must be with an holy joy ; with such a joy as results from a supreme love to God, and hatred of sin, as an infinite evil: with such a joy as St. Paul describes, (1 Cor. xiii. 6.) Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but in the truth : for no other joy will answer to the nature of God's universal plan, which is altogether suited to exalt the Deity, and set sin in an infinitely odious point of light, and to cause truth and right universally to take place.
There are some who say they are Jews, and are not, but are of the synagogue of satan : who say they trust in the Lord,
done what is most for his own glory, nor what was wisest and best to do; we must inevitably give up the absolute perfection of the divine nature, which will overturn all religion by the roots.
“ that secret things belong to God, and we ought not to think of this part of the divine conduct; nor is it our duty to believe it to be wise, or to acquiesce in it, as such ;" will not satisfy a pious judicious mind. Indeed, were it a secret thing, and had we no evidence of the fact, it might justly put an end to all our inquiries. But God's permitting sin is in truth no secret thing. It is revealed, it is as open and manifest asthat God made and governs the world. It is often, very often, held up to our view in the holy Scriptures, by God himself, on purpose that we might think of it. And it is acknowledged on all bands, that it is our duty to search the scriptures, and take special notice of what we find written there, and meditate on every part of divine conduct therein held forth to our view; since the whole is calculated and designed for our instruction. Tim. iii. 16. And as it is an acknowledged fact, that God has permitted sin in millions of instances, from the beginning of the world to this day, and will continue to do so through eternal ages; so there is no avoiding a view of his conduct, but by the greatest stupidity, or shutting our eyes in the most obstinate manner. Nay, this will not do it; we cannot but think of it sometimes in this world, and shall for ever think of it in the world to come.
And we must approve or disapprove ; for it is so interesting an affair, that we cannot stand neuter. If we disapprove now, and for ever, we cannot acquiesce in God's ways in this world, nor join the heavenly hosts at the day of judgment, in saying, Amen Hallelujak. And God, of necessity, must look upon us as enemies to him and mal-contents in his kingdom, and treat us accordingly. It is therefore of the last importance that we approve. But if God's conduct is not wise, it is not our duty to approve of it. Rather' we ought to be sorry, and lament that God has done as he has. Which would suppose him to be to blame. And which would imply that he is not an absolutely perfect being. And if so, he is not God. And if there is no God, all religion is overthrown. Therefore we must
believe the divine conduct to be wise. But how shall this belief be obtained ? Firstly and chiefly, by an implicit Faith in the absolute perfection of the divine nature. Which, Seo condly, may be strengthened, by a view of the wisdom of such parts of the divine conduct as we can more fully comprehend. Which, Thirdly, may be still more confirmed by right views of the true nature of God's universal plan. All these I have endeavoured to lead my readers to attend to, in my sermons on the wisdom of God in the permission of sin.
And had the author of the Attempt carefully attended the subject, as I had stated it, and entered thoroughly into my reasonings, I should naturally have been led to review the whole, and to retract or confirm, as light and truth appeared. But this he has not done; but rather, to use his own words, according to bis professed design, he has exerted himself to the utmost to set out the doctrine, “ if possible, in all its horror and deformity.” (p. 8.) So that what I have to do, is to take off this ill dress, and array it in its native beauty ; that the divine conduct in the permission of sin may not be blasphemed by ignorant and wicked men through his means; and the moral rectitude of the divine nature given up, to the subversion of all religion. Nor shall any thing in his piece that needs an answer, pass unconsidered.
Several particulars, wherein the author of the SERMONS on
the Wisdom of God in the permission of Sin, and the author of the ATTEMPT, are agreed.
We should always exactly state the point in controversy before we begin to dispute. Wherefore let us see how far this author agrees with us ; that the point of difference may be made to stand out in clear view. And,
1. We agree, that sin is in the world, and that dreadful have been the consequences for above 5000 years. And it is likely to issue in the eternal ruin of great multitudes of God's creatures.
* We agree, that sin is the very worst of evils in its own mature, and it naturally tends to evil, and only to evil; to dishonour God, and ruin the system.
s. We agree, that the eternal ruin of such great multitudes of God's creatures, considered in itself, is an infinitely dreadful thing.
4. We agree, that all the sin and misery, that has, or ever will take place in the system through eternal ages, (how infinitely dreadful soever the whole must appear to one who has a perfect comprehensive view of it all at once,) even the whole lay open, full, and plain to the divine view, before God created the world. And that'he had as full, perfect, and lively an apprehension of it, before he begat to create, as he ever will have to eternal ages.
5. We agree, that, if God had pleased, he could have hindered the existence of sin, and caused misery to have been for ever unknown in his dominions, with as much ease, as to have suffered things to take their present course.
6. We agree, that God knew with infallible certainty, that things would take their present course, and issue as they will issue, in the eternal ruin of millions, unless he himself should interpose, and effectually hinder it.
7. We agree, that God did, as it were, stand by, and take a perfect view of the whole chain of events, in which his honour and the good of his creation was infinitely interested : and in a full view, and under a most lively sense of the whole, did deliberately forbear to interpose effectually to hinder the introduction of sip into his world, when he could have hindered it, as easily as not.
8. We agree, that angels and men were under the greatest obligations to love and obey God, and were left to their own free choice: and that God was not obliged, in point of justice, to do any more for them than he did. And that the whole blame lies at the creature's door : and that God is righteous in punishing his sinning creatures, according to the declarations of his word. All these particulars I had asserted. None of them has he denied. Nor does it appear that we differ in any of these things.
The grand point in controversy exactly stated.
THE grand point of difference is precisely this :“ I believe that the infinitely holy and wise God, in every part of his conduct, relative to the intellectual system, does that whicla is really wisest and best for him to do; most for his glory and the good of the system, in the whole; and therefore, that God's present plan is, of all possible plans, the best ; most for his glory, and the good of the system.” On the contrary, the author of the Attempt believes, that "God is not obliged to do, and that in fact he does not do, that which is most for his own glory, or most for the good of the system ; and is fully persuaded that the present plan is so far from being the best, that it had been infinitely more for the glory of God, and the good of the system, if sin bad never happened."
In the sermons he objects against (p. 95, 96.) It had been said, that" from the perfections of the divine nature alone, we have such full evidence, that he must always act in the wisest and best manner, as that we ought not in the least to doubt it. Before the foundation of the world, this system now in existence, and all other possible systems, equally lay open to the divine view, and one as easy to the almighty as another. He had his choice; he had none to please but himself. Besides 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, infinite wisdom and perfect rectitude being judges."
But the author of the Attempt esteems this reasoning quite inconclusive, as it proceeds on a false hypothesis. “A fallacy,” he says, to suppose that God “must necessarily always will and do that which is most for his own glory." A point lie does not believe, “ that in fact he always does," or that “ he is obliged to do it.” He thinks it plain in the works of creation, that God has not done wbat would have been most for his own glory, and that he might have done much better.