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the mercies of God to his church, the apostle is struck with astonishment and wonder at the mysteries of providence, and exclaims, as in a transport of mingled joy and surprise, "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Salvation by the cross, the apostle denominates "the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory." To them, who believe, Christ is preached the wisdom of God. By admitting evil into the universe, and a heavy curse to fall upon the souls of men, and then applying such a remedy to this disease, as will place the universe in a much happier state, than it otherwise would have known, God presents to the view of intelligences such a display of his own wisdom, as must be infi nitely and eternally to the honour of his own
4. God will glorify himself, in the salvation of the church, by producing an illustrious proof of his own faithfulness. Notwithstanding all the errors and crimes that men greedily run into, the thoughts of his heart, which are thoughts of mercy, endure to all generations. How much profligacy, rebellion, and backsliding are there in the church of God, from one age to another, tending to the ruin of that glorious spiritual building, which has its basis, its corner-stone, in the blood of Christ? And yet against all these
provocations Jehovah maintains his character for integrity, truth, and faithfulness, unimpeachable. The mercies he has promised he does not withhold. His loving-kindness does not depart from his chosen people, however numerous, great, and aggravated, their offences are. The impieties of men are great indeed; but this does not hinder his executing all the gracious purposes he has formed respecting them, and fulfilling every word of comfort he has spoken concerning their state. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." The salvation of the church is an affecting illustration of this; and as such is greatly to the praise and glory of God. Hence we see how true it is, that believers are instruments in the hand of God, by which he undermines and undoes the kingdom of Satan, and rears up an eternal monument to his own praise.
But, possibly, some may object to this doctrine, as exhibiting the best part of God's intelligent creatures in the light of mere machines, as cutting them off from any just tittle to a reward of their works, and placing all agency, that is truly commendable and praise worthy, in the hand of God, or making him the only virtuous agent in the uni
To this it may be answered, that if none can be subjects of moral rectitude or wrong, and, consequently, of praise or blame, except those, whose actions are from themselves, and not immediately dependent on a superi
or and divine agency, then, indeed, men are such machines as to imply, that there can be no moral fitness, or unfitness in their actions. But if creatures may perform right actions, such as may properly be required and rewarded with divine favour, at the same time that all their sufficiency is of God, and every motion is excited and directed by the supreme ruler; then, however much they may resemble a machine in the hand of God, actuated and used by his power, this is no hindrance to the moral excellency of their affections, nor any reason why they should not be considered and treated, as common sense teaches us moral beings should be. A machine is valuable to its owner, as an instrument for his occasions, a means, by which he accomplishes some end, which he desires. If by a man's being a mere machine, nothing more is meant, than that by him, as an instrument, God fulfils his own pleasure, and advances his own glory; in this sense, it is acknowledged, that saints and angels are but mere machines: but this no more supposes, that they are not moral beings, in the fullest sense, than a man's using his bible for the purpose of furnishing himself with knowl edge, supposes, that it is not a bible, but a profane history, or a treatise upon grammar. When our Saviour sent after a beast, that he might ride upon him into Jerusalem, he sent to the owner this reason for the demand, "The Lord hath need of him." If the Lord needed a brute, a creature without moral a
gency, to be one kind of instrument in fulfilling the designs of his providence; may he not need moral agents, even devout and holy men, to be another kind of instrument, in carrying on the same great and infinitely important work? If this be admitted, it must appear very absurd, to argue against the moral nature and accountability of man, from the consideration of his being used as an instrument of glory to God. And to say that the Almighty cannot communicate moral agency to creatures, and use it for his own glory, even as it seemeth him best, methinks would appear so great an instance of arrogancy and impiety, that none would dare venture upon it. The meek and humble believer, instead of questioning the right of Deity to use any of his creatures for himself, or hence inferring that such creatures must be without moral agency and accountability, rejoices to find himself a vessel in the house of God, subservient to the divine purposes, and that all his affections and deportment will be made a means of praise to him, whose is the kingdom, majesty and glory.
Wicked men the instruments of God's providence.
JEREMIAH li. 20, 21, 22, 23.
Thou art my battle-axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations; and with thee will I destroy kingdoms;
And with thee will I break in pieces the horse and his rider; and with thee will I break in pieces the chariot and his rider;
With thee also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with thee will I break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in pieces the young man and the maid;
I will also break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock; and with thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen; and with thee will I break in pieces captains and rulers.
N pursuing the contemplation of providence, as the work of God, and marking the divers operations of the divine hand, in varying the face of the world and the state of mankind, we should keep in mind, that the Judge of all the earth will do right.