« PreviousContinue »
“ unto corruptible man, and to birds, and four“ footed beasts, and creeping things.” Now, mark their punishment. “ Wherefore God also gave “ them up to uncleanness.” And again ;
And again ; “ Even !' as they did not like to retain God in their “ knowledge,” or, “ in acknowledgment, God gave them over to a reprobate mind w.”
He also punishes the fin of one person by that of another. The fin of David in the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba, was punished by the incest of Absalom. Therefore the Lord sent this mefsage to David : “ Thus faith the Lord, Behold, “I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own “ house, and I will take thy wives before thine
eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and “ he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this “ fun. For thou didit it secretly: but I will do “ this thing before all Israel, and before the “ fun 1."
In a word, the God of infinite holiness often uses Satan himself as his inftrument. Thus we read, that, when he was plaguing the Egyptians, he “ fent evil angels among them y.” He permitted him to act as a lying fpirit in the mouth of the false prophets of Ahab, when he was about to accomplish the destruction of this wicked prince. He even employs him as an instrument for chaftening his own people. Job was in part subjected to his power. We read of a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan had long bound. And the general experience of the Church concurs with
the w Rom. i. 23, 24. 23. X 2 Sam, xii. 11, 12. y Pfal. lxxviii. 49.
the testimony of inspiration, in affuring us, that when a loving father means to humble and prove his own children, he often subjects them to severe discipline, by means of the temptations of this cruel one.
From these reflections we may learn, that we ought never to judge of a work merely from the means or instruments employed. Did we follow this rule, we would be at times in danger of miftaking God's work for the devil's, and the devil's for God's. Often God is doing his own work, when the carnal eye can perceive nothing but the sad working of human corruptions. And often the devil is doing his, when “transformed into
an angel of light,” and coming with such “ de“ ceivableness of unrighteousness,” that “ even “ the children of God may be in part deceived." " It is not to the outward aspect of Providence that we are to look for direction ; but “ to the law, “ and to the testimony.” Let us also beware of undervaluing his work, because of the instruments. This is an homage that he claims to his sovereignty, that we should not presume to limit him. For “ as the heavens are above the earth, “ fo are his ways above our ways, and his thoughts “ above our thoughts.”
15. The fame sovereignty appears in the diftribution of natural gifts. One“ rejoiceth in “ his strength.” The life of another is a conftant struggle with constitutional imbecility. One is distinguished for the gift of prudence; while indiscretion is the characteristic of another. ReaQ2
Ion, in one, seems to vie with the intellect of an. gels; in another, it scarcely equals animal instinct. Whence proceeds this astonifhing differ,
We must not deny the operation of secondary causes. But it must be ultimately resolved into the sovereign will of that Lord who “ “ veth to one five talents, to another two, and to
16. The same thing appears from the whole management of our lot. Our very use of this word, with respect to human concerns, contains a virtual acknowledgment of divine sovereignty. Some, indeed, prefer other terms, which as they are more allied to the language of heathens, are too often used to convey fimilar sentiments. They talk of their luck, or their fortune. But the former is that which is consecrated by the Spirit of God. Thus did David the Type, nay, the glorious An: titype, express himself;
“ Thou maintainest iny “ lot".” Nor did either of these distinguished persons confine this language to the great and leading circumstances of life. For it is added, without any limitation; “ The lines are fallen
unto me in pleasant places ..?!
Nothing may seem more to depend on chance, or on the most trivial causes, than the place of our residence on this earth. Yet we are assured that God hath determined the bounds of our “ habitation.” It is wholly the result of his sovereign will, that one is placed " in the valley “ of vision;" and that another“ fits in dark"ness, and in the region and shadow of death."
Scarcely a Pial. xvi. 5.
c Ads xvii. 26.
2 Marth. XXV. 15.
b Ver. 6.
Scarcely in any respect does the exercise of this perfection more remarkably appear, than in the distribution of the enjoyments of this life. We fee one born a beggar, and another a prince; or one, who is born a beggar, advanced “ to fit with “ princes.” On the other hand, one who has had the most honourable nativity, is sometimes brought down to the lowest station in society. It is undeniable, that much depends on second causes. “ The hand of the diligent maketh rich,” while “ the soul of the sluggard defireth, and hath “nothing." But do we not often observe, that those who have equal advantages, and equal industry, have very unequal success? Perhaps, you may have marked one, whose circumstances were originally the same with those of another, who was not inferior in capacity, in diligence, or in frugality, who was employed in the very fame line. Yet with the one every thing has been unprosperous, while riches have flowed on the other. Nay, do we not sometimes see a person who pofseffes far less understanding, and discovers far less industry than another, prosper in all that he undertakes, while every attempt fails with the other? In common language, men confess their inability to account for the difference. They call the latter an unfortunate man. But we must trace matters to another source, to the overruling providence of that God who manages all the concerns of men as he pleases. We must remember that he not only gives the means of becoming rich, but that it depends upon his pleasure to give success to these means; that while “ the rich and Q3
poor meet together; the LORD is the maker of “ them all d.” The Israelites, therefore, are warned that it would be viewed as an evidence of their “ heart forgetting the Lord their God,” if they said, “
My power, and the might of my hand “ hath gotten me this wealth.” They are commanded, on the contrary, to “ remember that the « LORD their God gave them power to get “ wealth," Let us listen to the estimate of the wise man. “ I saw under the sun, that the race " is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, “ neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to “ men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of
skill, but time and chance happeneth to them “ all f.” Does he here ascribe to mere accident what he denies to second causes? No, surely : He only calls our attention to what appears as chance to unthinking man, but must indeed be ascribed to the invisible yet certain influence of the First Cause.
The divine pleasure regulates our lot as to the duration of life. Each of us may say with the Pfalmift, “ My times are in thy hand 5. For God “ hath determined not only the bounds of our “ habitation,” but “ the times before appointed h.”
his eyes on the light of life, only that he may close them in death; another is cut off in childhood ; a third, amidst all the gaieties of youth. Some are struck down in the prime of life; while others are spared, till “ the grasshopper is a bur• den.”
f Ecclef. ix, 11.
d Prov. xxii. 2. & Pfal. xxxi. 15.
e Deut. viii. 14. 17, 18.