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it into reproach. "Who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ?" Objecting against the truth, may be considered as replying against God; and the particular truth questioned, or calumniated, according to the apostle in our text, is that exercise of God's moral government, in which he subordinates all creatures to himself, making them subvervient to his will, in all their actions, sufferings, and enjoyments, without absolving any from moral obligation and accountability. Does not this appear to be the idea, which the apostle would support, and which his antagonist labours to discredit and overthrow? And is not this the idea, all important if just, which many discourses have already been delivered to you to illustrate and impress, as holding pre-eminence and taking the lead among the vast multitude of most precious truths, which are detailed in the gospel? If it be so, indeed, that we are in unison with the apostle Paul in the sentiments, which we have been endeavouring to collect from him and other inspired writers, upon the subject of the character and government of God, it will be of no small use for strength and encouragement to have his skill and weapons for our own use in so important a cause, to defend it against the onset of objectors. On the other hand, how much does it behove us to be cautious, never to take up and adopt, for our own, such objections, as have
already been encountered by the spirit of truth, and condemned as impious, as a reply against God. Where there are manifest dif ficulties attending a sentiment alledged to be scriptural, it implies no dishonour to God nor disrespect to the authority of his word, to notice them and regard them as such; but to take the stand, and act the part, of determined opposers to any thing, which has countenance from the holy oracles, is just as hazardous, as it is to enlist against him, who is followed by all the armies of heaven. But while entering a caution against a cavilling spirit, or a forwardness to object against what is deduced from the scrip tures, I desire to be understood not to de mand the assent of any one to what I may recommend and urge, merely upon the con sideration, that I esteem it authorised by the word of God; neither would I flatter my. self, that it is less dangerous, or less crimi nal, to misinterpret the scriptures, and inculcate what is subversive of its real import, than it is to object against genuine bible truth. There should be, at least, as much care taken to advocate a scheme of just sen timents, as to receive such when they are presented to view. The importance of f delity, on either hand, deserves to be seri ously considered. The subject, which has, for some time, been under our examination, is important enough, without doubt, to mer. it a thorough discussion. It has called our attention to the wide extent, the universali
ty, of God's kingdom. And we have, I think, gathered from the scriptures, that God governs for himself, and uses all creatures as instruments of his glory; and that nothing is useless or unprofitable, in this respect. All are under God's efficient direction, and will be conducive to his glory. Even angels, men and devils are universally, as to their being and exercises, the workmanship of his hand, and as such will be serviceable to the grand result, which is the declaration of his glory, who hath made all things for himself. This scheme of doctrine is known to have.
its opposers. Objection is made against so much originality in God, and so little in the creature. I have not proposed to take under consideration every minute objection, which has been started against our doctrine, by those who have raised up against it a methodical and systematical opposition; but to review those only which are the most specious, and the most apt to be relied on, in the ordinary roține of disputation. The objection, that it is inconsistent with moral agency, has been attended to. A few others will now be brought into view. And should they appear not to be unanswerable, may we all be enabled to discard them, as fallacious props, applied to a frail and jointless building; but especially to avoid the spirit which has dictated them, lest haply we should be found to reply against God.
To the doctrine of man's agency, as whol ly dependent, it has been objected, that this C C
makes him a mere passive being. The objection itself contains its own refutation; for it is built upon the supposition, that man does really act. It was never imagined that the advocates for dependence meant, or that their notions upon this point had any tendency, to exclude the idea of creature agency, that men do act, when the influence, on which they depend, is exerted upon them. The only exception is taken at the idea of their not being self-directed, or not acting of themselves; but moving under the controling power of the Deity. That man is an active being is, therefore, granted, on all hands; and this notwithstanding the entire dependance of his activity. If then he is active, in any measure, how can he be entire passive, if activity and passivity are opposite terms, as they are generally understood to be? A man's acting dependently on God, can no more prove, that he does not act at all, than the motion of a tennis ball is proved to be no motion at all, because it depends on the hand of him who throws it. If it be true, that men are agents of any kind, it cannot be true, that they are wholly passive; though they may be passive, as respects the cause of their actions. But to say, that while they act, they are purely passive, because their actions are not self-caused, is to say, there is no difference between action and passion; or, that acting, is precisely the same with being acted upon, which is clearly absurd.
Another objection that is made against
man's entire dependence, as an active being, is, that it makes the Deity, who is represented to be the efficient cause of all the guilty actions of men, a most inconsistent, self-contradictory, being, for ever at war with himself; attempting to build up, in one way, what he is actually pulling down, in another.
To this general objection it may be, genérally, answered, that the wisdom of man is not penetrating and comprehensive enough to point out a consistent plan of operation to the Deity; and consequently he may mistake that to be incongruous and self-repugnant, which is really the most coherent, regular, and beautiful of any thing that is possible. To ascertain what is proper for the Godhead, how Deity ought to act, we need to possess infinite knowledge. If our view of things is more limited and partial, than that of Jehovah, how can we be in a situa tion to pass a judgment upon the expedien cy and fitness of his manner of performing the work of government? An ignorant man, unacquainted with the mechanic arts, would be ready, in a thousand instances, to pronounce upon the most skillful and finished artist, when contemplating his work in separate parts, that it will be impossible for him to put it together, so as to make it either beautiful or useful. He would see so many dissimilar, and, apparently, opposite things, that he would scarcely hesitate a moment to declare they never could be designed for the same machine, and that to think of uniting.