« PredošláPokračovať »
ticularly watchful to make their “ calling and election sure." All this naturally flows from a heart fixed upon heaven and eternal happiness : and such a disposition once firmly rooted and grounded, hardly needs any further rules. We easily perceive what we have to do, after we have fixed our aims and settled our main designs. All the sins and irregularities, either of our passions or our lives, ultimately terminate in our inclination to some temporal good, or aversion to some temporal evil; that is, in our love of this present world. There lies the root and source of all the distempers of our minds. Wherefore the true, the only remedy must be, to disentangle the mind, as much as possible, from things below, and to seek those things which are above. If it be asked, how this must be done? the ready answer is; by retirement, by recollection. by reading, and especially by praying. This is the way to make distant things have the same force upon us as if they were near at hand, and things to come as if they were now present.
If want of leisure be pleaded by men of action and business, it is a shrewd presumption that they have never yet seriously considered what everlasting happiness and everlasting misery import. However, it is not to be expected that either all or the greater part of our time should be laid out in religious exercises, properly so called. A great deal less may suffice. God designed us for action and business : our circumstances here, the health of our bodies, and the vigour of our minds require it, and can hardly be kept up without it. If the heart be once set right, and the aim well directed ; business itself is but another kind of religious exercise, and doing good in our station is serving God. It is the intention which sanctifies it, while the end proposed is the glory of God and the good of mankind.
To conclude : let us be ever careful so to use and so to enjoy this world, as neither to be enchanted nor enamoured with it; always remembering, that it is an introduction only to another, that it will soon be over, and that eternity hangs upon it.
Wicked Men, the providential Instruments of
The First Sermon on this Subject.
PROVERBS xvi. 4.
The Lord hath made all things for himself : yea, even the wicked
for the day of evil. THIS wise saying of king Solomon, if it be but rightly under
stood, is full of excellent matter, and most useful instruction, such as every good man will constantly have upon his mind. But the words, as they run in our version, are not altogether so clear as they might have been ; for which reason it will be necessary, here in the entrance, first to open and explain the meaning of the text; that so we may come at the subject matter to be discoursed upon. The verse going before the text, having a relation to it, will be of use to point out to us its real and full meaning. “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts " shall be established.” Which words are an exhortation to us to repose our whole trust and confidence in God's good providence, and to submit all our thoughts and resolutions to him, as upon whom alone the success of them and their accomplishment depend. Then follows ; “ The Lord hath made all things for “himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil :” that is, for executing vengeance where God pleases. All things are in God's hands, and he makes use of all things as he pleases; for he created them all : yea even the wickedest and worst of men, they are his creatures too, and under his direction and control : however they may be set upon mischief, they can proceed no further than God permits ; being instruments only in his hand to afflict others, and to bring evil upon them. When he is disposed to shield and protect good men, then he restrains and ties up those engines of mischief: but at other times, when he is pleased either to exercise good men with trials, or to punish the wicked, he then lets loose those ministers of wrath to execute his discipline or his vengeance in the earth. And because all the instruments of mischief are thus in God's hands, and must have commission or leave for every step they take ; therefore all kinds of calamities or disasters that befall mankind are ascribed to God as their sovereign Author, being the supreme arbitrator and disposer of all events. To which purpose God says by his prophet Isaiah, “I form the light, and create darkness : I make “ peace, and create evila." And by the prophet Amos, “ Shall “ there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it b?" In the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah it is expressed thus : “ Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord “ commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High
proceedeth not evil and good c?” By which it is intimated, that both prosperous and calamitous events are to be ascribed to God's overruling providence. The same thought occurred to holy Job under his troubles ; “ Shall we receive good,” says he, " at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil d?" The same thing is frequently inculcated in several other places of holy Scripture, too long to mention : and the main design of all was to instil this instructive lesson into the minds of men ; that as, on one hand, they could have no reason to hope for any thing good but from God; so, on the other hand, they could have no just ground to fear any evil but from the same Divine Being. Mankind were very apt to suspect, that there were two opposite powers in the world, one the fountain of good, and the other the fountain of mischief: this notion appears to have been very ancient among the Persians, and among the Egyptians before them. The consequence of which was, that they thought themselves obliged to worship and adore both the rival powers; one, in expectation to receive good from him ; and the other, as it is said of the Indians at this day, for fear he should do them harm.
a Isa. xlv. 7.
b Amos iii. 6.
c Lam. ii. 37, 38.
a Job ü. io.
This is a superstitious and dangerous notion, which the Scripture every where obviates, by teaching that both good and evil, both prosperity and adversity, proceed from the same fountain, and are both to be ascribed to one and the same God. For though evil angels, or wicked men, may be the contrivers and executors of innumerable mischiefs; yet, considering that they are God's creatures, and both contrive and act under restraint, and under correction, as God sees fit, they are to be looked upon as God's instruments in all that they effect; as much as wild beasts, or fire, or storms, or floods, or any thing of like kind : they are but the ministers of God's wrath in all that they accomplish, while they see not the end which God aims at in it, but pursue their own wicked devices. They do not understand how God makes use of their rage or malice to serve his own wise purposes : they have quite other views and designs from what God has, and imagine only that they are serving their own ends in all : but it is true nevertheless, that God serves himself of them as his instruments, and permits them to act no further than he can turn to good. “ The Lord hath made," and the Lord ordereth, “ all things for himself," to serve the ends of his providence ; yea, even the wicked are his creatures, and were both made at first, and are still preserved, to execute, in a certain sense, God's good pleasure. They are the instruments which God makes use of in the day of evil, in the day when he sends his judgments upon others for their sing. Enough hath been said to shew what the general doctrine of the text is. In discoursing further, my design is, I. To open and illustrate the general doctrine, by a more par
ticular explication. II. To shew the practical use and improvement of it.
I. First, I propose to open and illustrate the general doctrine by a more particular explication. “ The Lord hath made all
things,” or (as the words may be construed) he orders and disposes all things so, as one way or other to serve his own wise purposes.
Whatever second causes there are, or however they act, still it is God, and God alone, that governs the world. His providence is so general, large, and comprehensive, as to take in the whole compass of the wide universe ; and it is at the same time so very minute and particular, that the smallest atoms do not escape his notice. We are assured by our blessed
Lord, that not so much as a sparrow falls without his leave; aud that he condescends to feed the fowls of the air, and to clothe the lilies of the field. Heaven, and earth, and hell, are all under his inspection. “ If I ascend into heaven," says the Psalmist," thou art there : if I make my bed in hell, behold, “ thou art there also e."
All occurrences, all affairs whatever, are observed, regulated, conducted by him ; even those which seem merely casual and accidental are in reality providential: and what we corruptly call chance is truly providence. What more casual than a lot? and yet the Wise Man tells us in this very chapter, that when * the lot is cast into the lap, the whole disposal thereof is of “ the Lord f.” God's government of the natural world, his conducting the courses of sun, moon, and stars, his preserving the brute animals upon our globe, and his endowing them with their particular instincts proper to every kind, which to them are so many stated rules of conduct, is highly wonderful ; but yet his government of the moral world is much more so: and the most mysterious part of all is, what my text mentions with a particular emphasis, his ordering even the wicked in a way consistent with human liberty, and so as to serve the ends of his providence, and to promote his glory. This is a profound speculation, to be touched upon only by us, and that with awful reverence, There is a great deal more in it than we are able to understand. The fact is certain ; but the manner how is beyond our comprehension. I shall therefore endeavour rather to illustrate the fact, shewing what we are to believe or to suppose concerning it, than to give any tolerable account how it is done. There can be no mistake in conceiving, that God had his wise and gracious views in first creating those whom he foresaw would be wicked, and would ruin and undo themselves. He made men free agents, bidding them work out their own happiness by a right use of that liberty which he had invested them with. Many, he foresaw, would do so, and would of consequence arrive at a happy immortality: and it was for their sakes, and for his own glory, that he thereupon determined to create mankind.
It was by no means reasonable, that God should forbear creating such a race at all, only because some would be so foolish as to destroy themselves. For why should those who would