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which co-operates with, and enables the creature to produce them, in such a manner that without the efflux of provi. dence the creature could not move a hand or foot, or perform any action whatever; “for in him we move;’ and no action of the creature simply considered, or as a natural action, can be sinful, but has a goodness of being in it, and is effected by the influence of providence. As to the pravity or sin that is in actions, as God decreed the futuri. tion of sin, or permitted it to take place, and did not hinder it; so all the sin or vitiosity that is in actions proceeds entirely from the creature, and the evil lusts and passions that are in his heart. Thus a man's taking up a stone, and throwing it, is a natural action, which the providence of God enables him to perform; but his throwing it at another man with an intention to kill him, is permitted by God, otherwise it could not take place; for if a hair cannot fall from our head without the providence of God, much less can a man be murdered without it; and the killing of the man by the throwing of the stone, proceeds entirely from the malice and wickedness that was in the heart of the murderer, the operation of which God did not hinder, which he is nowise obliged to do. 2. God leaves the sinner so far as he sees meet to the swing of his own lusts, and denies him restraining grace. Thus, it is said of Hezekiah, a godly king, that, “in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart,” 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. And when the restraint is taken off the sinner, he runs furiously, to evil. 3. God bounds sin, and restrains men in their sins, as he does the raging sea, allowing it to go so far, but no further. He has such a power and command over wicked men, that they are not masters of their own affections and dispositions, but many times act quite contrary to what they had firmly resolved and proposed; as in the case of Laban. He pursued Jacob, when he left Padan-aram, in order to return into his own country, with a wicked intention to do him hurt, by robbing him of his wives, children, and cattle; but the Lord restrained him, and influenced him to enter into a covenant of friendship with the good patriarch, Gen. xxxii. Thus
Esau had resolved on Jacob’s death, and went out to meet him with a purpose to destroy him; but when providence brought them together, it is said, “Esau embraced Jacob, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Thus Balaam came with an express intention to curse Israel, and yet he fell a blessing them. Thus he bent the hearts of the Egyptians to favour the Israelites, so that they sent them away with great riches, by lending them jewels of silver and jewels of gold, and costly garments. Thus, by a secret instinct, he turned Jehoshaphat’s enemies away from him, when they came with a purpose to destroy him, 2 Chronxviii. 31.; and at another time he turned his enemies against themselves, so that they sheathed their swords in one another's bowels, 2 Chron. xx. Thus also he restrained the soldiers that broke the legs of the two thieves that were crucified with Christ, from touching his, in order to accomplish his word, that a bone of the paschal lamb, which was a type of Christ, the Lamb of God, should not be broken. So true is that saying of the Psalmist, Psal. lxxvi. 10 “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” God has a bridle in the mouths of wicked men, when they are under the most impetuous fury of their lusts, to turn them as he will, restraining and curbing in respect of some, and giving swing to others.
4. Lasily, God over-rules all to a good end. God has one end in wicked actions, and the sinner another. The sinner minds and intends evil, but God means and designs good by them all. So Joseph's brethren, in their cruelly selling him for a slave, meant evil to the poor youth; but God, in that dispensation meant it for good, and brought much good out of it to Joseph, and his father and brethren. Thus the Jews crucified Christ out of malice against him; but God by that crucifixion intended satisfaction to his jus. tice for the sins of men, and the redemption and salvation of an elect world. Thus God brings good, the greatest good out of the worst of evils. What greater evil or more atrotious wickedness can be imagined, than the violent death of the innocent Son of God, who went about doing good, and was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners ? and yet what a rich and astonishing good resulted thereo even glory to God, and peace and goodwill towards Then
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IV. Our next business is to consider the properties of di. vine providence. 1. God’s providence is most holy, Psal. cxlv. 17. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.’ Even though providence reach to and be conversant in sinful actions, yet it is pure; as the sun contracts no defilement, though it shine on a dunghill. For God is neither the phy. sical nor moral cause of the evil of any action, more than he who rides on a lame horse is the cause of his halting. All the evil that is in sinful actions proceeds and flows from the wicked agent, as the stench of the dunghill does not proceed from the heat of the sun, but from the corrupt matter contained in the dunghill. 2. It is most wise, Isa. xxviii. 29. “This cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.” Infinite wisdom always proposes the most excellent ends in all its operations, and uses the best methods for accomplishing its ends. However perplexed confused, and void of wisdom providential administrations may appear to us poor mortals of narrow, shallow capacities, yet they are the result of the highest wisdom and the deepest counsel, as proceeding from and directed by him whose name is the only wise God, and cannot but manage all things with the greatest understanding. And the day will at last come when it shall be said by the united voice of the whole assembly and church of the first-born, that God hath done all things well: and then the plan of providence will appear in every respect to have been most wise, harmonious and consistent. 3. Providence is most powerful. Hence the Lord says to Sennacherib, the king of Assyria “I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest,’ 2 Kings xix. 28. “The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.’ Who can resist his will which is almighty He can never fail of his end, but all things fall out according to his decree, which is efficacious and irresistible. I shall conclude with an use of exhortation. 1. Beware of drawing an excuse for your sin from the providence of God; for it is a most holy, and has not the least efficiency in any sin you commit. Every sin is an act of
rebellion against God; a breach of his holy law, and deserves his wrath and curse; and therefore cannot be authorised by an infinitely-holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity without detestation and abhorrence. Though he has by a permissive decree allowed moral evil to be in the world, yet that has no influence on the sinner to commit it. For it is not the fulfilling of God's decree, which is an absolute secret to every mortal, but the gratification of their own lusts and perverse inclinations, that men intend and mind in the commission of sin. . 2. Beware of murmuring and fretting under any dispensations of providence that ye meet with; remembering that nothing falls out without a wise and holy providence, which knows best what is fit and proper for you. And in all cases, even amidst the most afflicting incidents that befal you, learn submission to the will of God; as Job did, when he said upon the back of a train of the heaviest calamities that happened to him, ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” Job i. 21. In the most distressing case say with the disciples “The will of the Lord be done,’ Acts xxi. 14. 3. Beware of anxious cares and diffidence about your through-bearing in the world, This our Lord has cautioned his followers against, Matth. vi. 31. ‘Take no thought (that is, anxious and perplexing thought), saying, What shall we eat; or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed ” Never let the fear of man stop you from duty, Matth. x. 28, 29.; but let your souls learn to trust in God, who guides and superintends all the events and administrations of providence, by whatever hands they are performed. 4. Do not slight means, seeing God worketh by them; and he that hath appointed the end orders the means necessary for gaining the end. Do not rely upon means, for they on do nothing without God, Matth. iv. 4. Do not despond iftherebe no means, for God can work without them, as well * with them; Hos. i. 7. “I will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, Norby battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.” If the means unlikely, he can work above them, Rom. iv. 19. “He onsidered not his own body now dead, neither yet the *adness of Sarah's womb. If the means be contrary, he *n work by contrary means, as he saved Jonah by the
whale that devoured him. That fish swallowed up the prophet, but by the direction of providence, it vomited him out upon dry land. 5. Lastly, Happy is the people whose God the Lord is : for all things shall work together for their good. They ma sit secure in exercising faith upon God, come what . They have ground for prayer; for God is a prayer-hearing God, and will be inquired of by his people as to all their concerns in the world. And they have ground for the greatest encouragement and comfort amidst all the events of providence, seeing they are managed by their covenant God and gracious friend, who will never neglect or overlook his dear people, and whatever concerns them. For he hath said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, Heb. xiii, 5.
THE WISE OBSERVATION OF PROVIDENCES ILLUSTRATED AND ENFORCED.
PsAL. cvii. 43-Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.
HOSOEVER would walk with God, must be due observers of the word and providence of God, for by these in a special manner he manifests himelf to his people. In the one we see what he says; in the other what he does. These are the two books that every student of holiness ought to be much conversant in. They are both written with one hand, and they should both be carefully read, by those that would have not only the name of religion, but the thing. They should be studied together, if we would profit by either; for being taken together, they give light the one to the other; and as it is our duty to read the word, so it is also our duty to observe the work of God, Psal. xxviii. 5. The one I formerly recommended; and I am now to press the other, as a proper addition to our late discourse on the providence of God, from the text now read. Wherein we have two things. 1. The observing of providences recommended, Whoso is wise, &c. In the Hebrew it runs, Who is wise, and will observe these things. Wherein we may observe, 1st, The duty itself recommended, observing these things, Where we are to consider the act and the object.