Images de page
PDF
ePub

objects and occasions that tend to it; and by taking away sometimes the ability, and sometimes the life of the agents. All history affords innumerable examples of God's hindering and preventing sin, in all these various modes. On the contrary, his permission of sin is simply his not exerting efficaciously his omnipotent and invincible power in its actual prevention. He could, if he would, prevent the existence of moral evil. The same almighty power and goodness which made all things very good, could have preserved them always very good; and they could now destroy in a moment all criminals and crimes, or invest the transgressors with the beauties of holiness. For reasons however known to himself, and worthy of himself, he has not seen good thus to proceed. Sin as such, he cannot choose, but there is a positive choice of his heart to permit its existence; else, it never would have existed. Take the language of a father on this deep subject. “In a wonderful and unspeakable manner, even that which is done against his will, is not done without his will; for it would not be done, if it were not permitted; neither doth he permit it without, but with his will. He is so good as that he would never suffer evil, if he were not so omnipotent, as to bring good out of evil.” 3. The Lord delivers up sinners to their own lusts and to the

Grace in the heart does not more naturally shun iniquity, and follow holiness, than corruption hates and shuns righteousness, and is prone to indulge in all iniquity. It is not more natural for the lion by in innate propensity, to devour harmless animals, than for the sinner to hate God and man, and seek the destruction of both. It is not more congenial to the swine to wallow in the mire, than for the sinner to live in sin.--He takes hold of it with both hands to do it. He drinks down iniquity like the water. Just as the water descends when the opposing barrier is removed, so corrupt man, when the restraints of providence and grace are removed, rushes into iniquity. He needs no stimulus to this from God, or any creature, but willingly and constantly, of his own accord, goes astray. Accordingly, when the Lord, provoked by the Israelites, gave them up to their own lusts, they wandered in counsels of their own. When he gave up the heathens to their uncleanness, vile affections, and a reprobate sense, they indulged in all abominations. Rom i. 24.-32.

The devil, although destitute of power to constrain, has a notable dexterity in deceiving and persuading to sin, and every facility ensuring success, through the lusts which men indulge. His powof deceiving and persuading, is truly formidable. When permitted, he can enter the soul and body of man or beast, and approach

power of Satan.

ing through the medium of the senses, appetites and immagi nations, suggest the most subtle, abominable and blasphemous thoughts, and that too with a frequency and violence, that is conconfoundmg. He can direct the whirlwind, the lightening and the thunderbolt, exhibit and offer all the kingdoms of the world, and all their glory; cover the body with the most loathsome disease, and excite the storm of murderous wrath. When, as a tempter, he has seduced to sin, then as the accuser and troubler, he alarms tie conscience with the most fearful representations of guilt, to impel to despair and self murder. And thus he acts also the part of a tormenter and executioner. And to him in all these characiers of tempter, accuser and tormentor, a righteous God, for wise and just ends, delivers up men, and he remains not idle. He tempted Christ, accused Job, and Joshua the high priest, and the incestuous person was delivered up to him, for the destruction of the flesh. His dexterity of acting in all these characters, is as alarming as his power is great. In his very first assault on Eve, he exhibited a dexterity and impudence, that might do him credit, after an experience of six thousand years. How admirably did he plan and conduct his assault on the Saviour himself. And the lusts of men give him every advantage against them; they are prone of themselves to sin; and his temptations hasten them on. They are descending already a rapid stream, and when the impulse of Satan is added, how swift is their course. When he entered into Saul and Judas, how rapidly did they hasten on fronu crime to crime; till they fell imbruing their hands in their own blood. The combined power of lust and temptation, impelled them on. Jehovah forbids men to serve Sitan and their lusts, but they choose them for their masters, yield them willing service, and in righteousnes he gives them up to these cruel task-masters; and they rule over them with rigour. Then they obey their lusts, and the god of this world ruleth in their hearts. God has but to leave sinners, for their punishment, to themselves, and to Satan, and they become their own destroyers.

4. He acts on the mind, both through the medium of external events, and by internal operation. God may, and does suggest to inflicted,

thoughts which turn to evil. Thus the divinations used by the king of Babylon, proved the occasion of diverting him from the capitol of the Ammonites, to invade Jerusalem. Ezek. xxi. 19.23. The same is exemplified in Pharaoh. The plagues Moses

were counterfeited by the magicians, and from this he would naturally conclude, that Moses instead of being the accredited messenger of heaven, was only a juggler more dexterous than his own. No plague was repeated, and he might infer from this that when the present was over, the magazine of vengeance was exhausted. None of the plagues were inflicted on himself, and he might infer that he was invulnerable. And when the Israelites departed, and he learned their entangled condition, his wounded pride would revive, his avarice and ambition would persuade him, that unless now recovered, they would escape forever. Thus reasoning, he pursued them and perished. But we forbear, sensible, that in discussing this topic we stand on the very brink of a precipice.

III. The agency of providence in reference to sin after it is committed, is threefold.

1. He limits it: As the velocity of the falling stone increases in proportion to its descent, so the longer sin continues, the more it augments, and the greater is its tendency to farther increase.As the farther the river flows, the more its volume swells, so the longer sin continues, the more aggravated it becomes. And it has no tendency to terminate, but to continue forever and ever. What then prevents sin from increasing in power, extension, and duration, till it exceeds all bounds and limits, turning our world into hell itself. The Lord wisely and powerfully bounds it. This he does externally by removing the occasions of and temptations to it, the power of conmitting it, destroying sinners themselves; and internally, by curbing the debased desires of the heart, enlightening the mind to perceive the terrible turpitude, and dreadful consequences of sin, and changing the soul by converting grace, from the love and practice of iniquitv, to the love and practice of righteousness.

He thus restrained Sennacherib and Pharaoh in sinning, by destroying their armies and their lives—the sin of Joseph's brethren by preventing them from slaying him, and the persecuting rage of Saul, by his conversion.

death, the wages of sin, are various; but the infliction itself, is just as certain, and as necessary, as the throne of God. The same love of righteousness, by which he loves the righteous, is assigned as the cause of his raining down, on sinners,“ snares, fire, and brimstone, the portion of their cup Its infliction depends not on his will, but is founded in, and flows from, his very nature. Death is the wages of sin, and he would act unjustly by withholding it. But this he does not. He exempts the redeemed from punishment, because the curse which their sins deserve was inflicted on Christ their surety, and it will take full effect on all not interested in the pardoning mercy of God through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

3. He so orders and overrules it, contrary to its nature, that he educes good from it. “ He maketh the wrath of man to praise him. From sin, malignant as it is, he has extracted a revenue of glory, and that, contrary to its nature, and the intentions of the sinner. As the skilful physician employs poison itself in curing diseases, so God has ordered sin for promoting the benefit of his friends, and of his own glory. The inhuman sale of Joseph, proved, under his wise and powerful ageney, the occasion of his promotion, and of the preservation of the kingdom of Egypt, and of the church. The crucifixion of Christ, became the salvation of the church of the redeemed: And so universally and eminently is sin overruled, that the justice and holiness, the mercy and power of Jehovah, shine forth with more radiant splendour, than they would have done, if it had never existed. Creation and providence declare Gods eternal power and Godhead; but redemption from sin, displays "the exceeding greatness of his power,” “the exceeding riches of his grace,” “and he makes known the riches of his glory, on the vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory.”

The foregoing remarks, respecting the agency of providence in sinful actions, are in harmony with, and contain the substance, of what is usually delivered by Protestant writers on this difficult, and much perverted subject. The amount of these, is admirably exhibited in the Westminster confession of faith, chap. v. sect. iv.

“The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as bas joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof pro

[ocr errors]

ceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who being most holy and righteous, neither is, nor can be the author or approver of sin.” See also Larger Catechism Quest. 19.

It seems incredible, that language so guarded and definite, would have been construed to mean, that God is the efficient cause of sin, yea, as much as of holiness; and yet, this meaning is palmed upon it, and taught by those who have sworn to maintain this Confession. Surely the composers of it, understood their own meaning, and allow me to make an extract on this subject, from the two last paragraphs of the Chain of Principles, by the justly renowned John Arrowsmith, a member of that assembly, and the individual who had the principal hand in preparing the draught of the Assembly's Catechism. “Against the proposition of the activity of God even in sin, it may be objected, and usually is, that this tenet cannot be maintained, without making God the author of sin, which opinion is an abhorrence to the minds of all sound divines. I answer, so it is and ought to be, neither doth that assertion want the attestation of this state.Witness a modern, but pregnant occurrence, yet not generally known, and therefore inserted here in perpetuam rei memoriam. In the year of our Lord 1645, there was published in London, an English book, wherein God was expressly made the author of his people's sins, though not without some limitations. The Assembly of Divines then sitting at Westminster, took offence at this: and though some of them being acquainted with the man whose name it bore, were ready to say of him, as Bucolcerus did of Swenckfeldius, ' he had a good heart, without a well regulated head,'complained of it to both Houses of Parliament.They both censured the said book, to be burned by the hand of the common hangman: and the assembly of Divines agreed upon a short declaration nemine contradicente, by way of detestation of that abominable and blasphemous opinion, which was also published under that title, July 17,1645, and in which we meet with these among other expression's, 'That the most vile and blasphemous assertions whereby God is avowed to be the author of sin, hitherto by the general consent of Christian teachers and writers both ancient and modern, and as well Papists as Protestants, hath been not disclaimed only, but, even detested and abhorred. Our common adversaries, the Papists, have hitherto, only calumniously charged the doctrine of the Reformed churches with so odious a crime; (in the mean time confessing that we do in words deny it, as well as they themselves;) now should this book be tolerated, they might insult over us, and publish to the world, that in the Church of England, it was openly and im

2

Vol. III.

« PrécédentContinuer »