Page images

is observed even by unrenewed men, or by such as are strangers to divine revelation. Laban made this acknowledgment to Jacob; “ I have learned

by experience, that the Lord hath blessed me “ for thy fakem." Potiphar, Joseph's' master, “ saw that the LORD was with him, and that the “ Lord made all that he did to prosper in his " hand ,'

Because the event depends on divine Providence, means are not therefore to be neglected. For in this, as in his other operations, God is pleased to put honour on these. But while diligent in the use of lawful means, we must wholly depend on God for the success. For his blessing alone can make them effectual. 3.

We also discover the cause of adversity. We find that affiction riseth not out of the ground; that trouble springeth not from the dust; that this evil never exists, " and the Lord hath

not done it.” By the Sacred History, we are taught to acknowledge the hand of God in every species of adversity. Even in those things which are viewed as the common accidents of life, we are directed to the supreme cause. While every thing profpers with one, another is thwarted in all his undertakings, and eventually oppressed with poverty. Hannah, in her song of praise, unravels this mystery. "The LORD maketh poor, and maketh “ rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the

up beggar from the dunghill, to set them among "princes, and to make then inh rit he throne of “ glory : for the pillars of the earth are the “ Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them.”

glory: a Gen. xxxix. 3. 23.

m Gen. xX1.17.

God hath never meant that the dispensations of his Providence should be viewed as a certain test of his love or hatred. In this respect it is said, that “one event happeneth to all.” We accordingly find, that prosperity is often showered on the wicked, whom the LORD hateth ; while the objects of his eternal and unalterable love are visited with severe amiction. At the same time it appears from particular instances, that even temporal prosperity is sometimes meant as a token of God's approbation of the conduct of persons or nations, while adversity hath a contrary language. Concerning Uzziah king of Judah it is said, that “ as long as he fought the LORD, God “ made him to prosper P.” We have many proofs that righteousness alone “ exalteth a nation.” The children of Israel still prospered, while they adhered to their God: and when they returned to him, after their aportacies, he still delivered them.

In many instances, we cannot certainly know the design of affliction with respect to individuals. For in this respect, as has been formerly observed, the LORD often displays his fovereignty; or he severely chastises, because he hath a secret purpose of love, and hath determined to make the greatest afflictions “ work together for good.” But the design is often expressly declared in Scripture, or, as may be seen after

wards, o i Sam. ii. 7, &

P 2 Chron. xxvi. 5.


[ocr errors]

wards, most clearly expressed in the peculiar nature of the dispensation. As to national calamities, we are left in no hesitation. Sin is still pointed out as the procuring cause.

We learn that “ fire and hail, snow and va

pour, stormy wind, fulfil his word 9." But the general doctrine is illustrated by many particular instances. The cities of the plain were destroyed by fire from the LORD. “ Fire and hail” were among the plagues of Egypt'. Hailstones were the instruments of divine vengeance against the Amorites, when their five kings gathered their forces against Gibeons. When God “ caufeth “ his vapours to ascend,” he " proclaims liberty “ to the peftilence t.” When he blows with his wind, “ his enemies fink as lead in the mighty “ waters "." When the earth opens her mouth, and like a cruel mother devours her own brood; whatever be the influence of secondary causes, we are taught to view this awful calamity as a vifitation for fin v. When God " calls for fa“ mine,” or “ turneth the fruitful land into bar“ renness, it is for the wickedness of them that “ dwell therein." Men may philosophically defcant on the rise and fall of empires. They may ascribe these to accident, or to caufes, merely of a political nature. But although there is a fubordinate operation of secondary causes, we are aflured from the word of God, that these events must be ultimately ascribed to his operation as


Psal. cxlviji 8. u Exod. xv. 10.

r Exod. ix. 3.
v Isa. XXIX. 6.

s Forh. s 11. t Jer, sxxiv. 17.
w Plal. cvu. 34.

" the Governor among the nations." We must not, indeed, lose sight of divine sovereignty. But we do not recollect an instance in which the overthrow of rulers, or the desolation of kingdoms, is not represented as immediately the effect f vengeance for sin. As it is God who “ putteth down

one, and fetteth up another,” the reason is thus assigned ;-“ For in the hand of the Lord there " is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mix“ ture, and he poureth out of the fame : but the

dregs thereof all the wicked of the earth shall

wring them out, and drink them *.” When God gave a commission to Israel to exterminate the nations of Canaan, it was, as has been seen, because of their atrocious iniquity. Therefore did “ the land itself vomit out her inhabitants y." It was not so much the power of the Persians, as the guilt of the Babylonians, that overthrew their extensive empire. The holy and just God had faid; “ I will punish the world for their evil, " and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will “cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and " will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible,"

Nor do we merely learn from the sacred records, that wickedness in general procures punishment from God. We have a particular account of many fins, which bring grievous calamities, or complete destruction on a people : and the fatal effects of these are illustrated by facts.

Besides * Plal. lxxv. 7, 8.

y Lev, xviii. 25. 2 Isa. xiii. 11.

Besides unnatural lust, pride, luxury and idle. nefs are mentioned in the bill of indictment found against Sodom, and referred to by the Supreme Judge for alarming Jerusalem : “ Behold, this

was the iniquity of thy fifter Sodom. Pride, “fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was “ in her and her daughters ;-therefore I took “ them away as I saw good a.” Similar is the charge exhibited against Tyrus and her prince. “ Take up a lamentation for Tyrus, and say unto

Tyrus, O thou that art fituate at the entry of “ the fea, which art a merchant of the people for many illes, Thus faith the LORD God, O Ty

rus, thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty:“ -Say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus faith the “ Lord God, Because thine heart is lifted up, "and thou hast said, I am a god, I sit in the seat " of God, in the midst of the seas.-Behold, " therefore, I will bring strangers upon thee, the “ terrible of the nations: and they shall draw “ their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, “ and they shall defile thy brightness. They shall

bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die “the death of them that are slain in the midst of “ the seas b."

Carnal confidence is a sin nearly connected with those already mentioned : and is pointed out in Scripture as hastening the destruction of a people. Moab trusted in her works, and in her treasures; therefore she was taken, and the

spoilers b Ezek. xxvii. 2. 3. ; xxviii. 2. 7, 8.

a Ezek. xvi. 49, 5?.

« PreviousContinue »