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man, yea, one of the greatest instances of wickedness that ever was; and not only so, but it could be brought about no other way. If the Son of God must die, he must be put to death by wicked men. Surely, no Christian who hopes for salvation by the death of Christ, which was effected by the wickedness of man, can doubt but that greatest sin has been the occasion of the greatest good.
The last instance of this kind which I shall mention is the unbelief and obstinacy of the Jews as a people and nation, when the gospel was preached to them after the ascension of Christ. This was the occasion of the calling of the Gentiles, of their having the unsearchable riches of Christ preached to them; and so being ingrafted into the stock from which the Jews were broken off by unbelief. St. Paul considers the matter in this light, in the nineteenth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. He says, “ Through their fall, salvation is come to the Gentiles;” that “ the fall of them was the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them was the riches of the Gentiles." (Verses 11, 12.) He speaks of the Gentiles as “having obtained mercy through their unbelief.” (Verse 30.) And, in this view of the case, cries out, in the thirty-third verse, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Thus the sin and unbelief of the Jews was the occasion of mercy and salvation to the Gentiles. We Gentiles may now consider ourselves as reaping the benefit of the unbelief and fall of the Jews, and this day are in possession of the good that is come to us by that means.
Thus we have considered some instances in which great good has been brought about by the evil of sin, according to the express declaration of the Holy Scripture. I might turn you to many other instances of this kind, which I pass, as these I have mentioned set this matter, I think, in a plain and incontestable light.
And, since God has in some instances, yea, in so many, overruled the sin of man, to bring about some great good, who can say that he does not so with regard to every sin that men commit? Yea, have we not reason to think, and even be sure, that this is actually the case? May we not conclude, may we not be confident, that all the sin which takes place among men, from the fall of the first created pair to the end of the world, shall, some way or other, be overruled by God to answer some good end ? If God does it in one instance, why may he not, yea, why will be not, in every instance ? He who is infinite in wisdom and power can overrule all sin for good, as well and as easy as any one sin. And our not being able to see how he does it, or how it can be done, is no objection at all. Surely, we do not think to limit infinite wisdom and power by our own scanty conceptions. The instances of this recorded in Scripture, which we have been considering, are a specimen and pledge of what God can do, and doubtless of what he actually does with respect to sin in general, yea, every instance of it that takes place. These instances on record are a proof that sin is not, in its own nature, such a thing as that it cannot be improved by infinite wisdom to bring about great good. And if it is not so in its own nature, nothing can make it so, we have reason to think.
And if God is wise and powerful enough, and so can make sin in general, yea, every instance of it, answer some good end, may we not suppose that he actually does it? If God does not want wisdom and power to do it, we cannot think he will neglect it, or suffer sin to fail of answering a good end, through want of care and attention to this matter. No, surely; it is not a matter of indifference with God whether sin answers a good end, or a bad one, or none at all. To suppose this would be to suppose the infinitely holy God perfectly indifferent about good and evil, - yea, perfectly indifferent about the most interesting and important affair in the universe, - which would be the most unworthy thought of God, as well as the greatest absurdity.
But as it is of importance that we should all form our opinion right in this matter, let us again turn to the Bible, and see what further light we can get there on this point. And here we may observe the following things :
1. The Bible leads us to look upon the gospel, or the way of salvation by Christ, as a method God has taken to bring good out of the evil of sin in general. The gospel is founded in the sinfulness of man, and takes all its glory from it; and sin is the occasion of all the good that comes to man, and all the glory that comes to God by it. The great work of the Savior of the world is to bring good out of evil; and I think the Scripture leads us to consider the benefits of the gospel as a greater good than would have been had there been no sin. The Scriptures do not represent the work of redemption as what God has wrought to mend and patch up, as well as he could, a world that is spoiled and ruined by sin, as if there would have been more good in the world, upon the whole, if there had been no sin, and so no redemption by Christ. No; the work of redemption is represented in Scripture as contrived and laid out before the world was made, and as the most glorious of all God's works — far more glorious than the work of creation.
Jesus Christ is said to be ordained to the work of redemption before the foundation of the world. (1 Pet. i. 20.) And the glorious way of salvation, which is called the wisdom of God, is said to be ordained before the world. (1 Cor. ii. 7.) Christ's church and people are said to be chosen in him before the foundation of the world. (Eph. i. 3, 4.) The great favor that comes to believers by the gospel is said to be given to them before the world began. (1 Tim. i. 9.) Thus the Scripture leads us to consider the work of redemption as originally designed by God, before he made the world, as his greatest and most glorious work, in a view to which he made all things at first. Therefore, all things are said to be made for Christ. “For by him [i. e., Christ] were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible: all things were created by him, and for him.” (Col. i. 16.) The new creation - i. e., the work of redemption - is said
to be far more glorious than the first creation. “For, behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isa. Ixv. 17.) Now the sin of man is the occasion of these new heavens and new earth; for the glory of Christ and his works could not have been, had not sin took place. Thus sin in general is the oecasion of all that good which is comprised in the work of redemption, which, according to Scripture, so much exceeds all the good which was in the first creation. The world, considered as fallen, or sinful, and redeemed by Christ, is better and far more glorious than it was considered as without sin, according to Scripture. Thus we are taught that God's greatest and most glorious work is to bring good out of evil
— to make sin in general, which is the greatest evil, the means of the greatest good. I proceed to observe, —
2. The Scripture not only teaches us that good is brought out of sin in general, by the work of redemption, but also that God makes the sin and final obstinacy of those that perish eternally the occasion of great good ;-— that God designs good by this evil, and brings good out of it. This we are particularly taught in Romans ix. 22. " What if God, willing to show his wrath, and make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?" Here we are taught that God's end in bearing with sinners, and suffering them to go on in sin to destruction, is the manifestation of his power and wrath, - i. e., his own glory, and that he makes their sin and ruin the occasion and means of it, and so brings good out of this evil, even their sinfulness and ruin. And, doubtless, the good obtained is greater than the evil by which it is brought about; for we
cannot reconcile it to the wisdom of God that he should suffer a greater evil for the sake of a less good. If God suffers sinners to go on to destruction, that he might hereby show his wrath, and make his power known, then it is not only certain that God makes the sin and ruin of those that perish the occasion and means of his own glory, but it is also certain that he counts his glory so great a good as to overbalance all that evil which he suffers to take place as a means of that good; so that, upon the whole, there is more good than if there had been no evil
. I say we are sure of this; for to suppose the contrary is to impeach God's wisdom. For to suffer a greater evil for the sake of a less good is as if one should part with a thousand pounds for the sake of ten, or as the means of procuring one penny; or, as if he should endure a million degrees of pain for the sake of one degree of pleasure, which, upon the whole, is worse than nothing at all, and is really preferring evil to no evil, or a greater evil to a less; which is the same with choosing evil for evil's sake, and cannot be supposed of the wise and holy God, without blasphemy.
Indeed, the instance of Pharaoh, which we have before considered, is a specimen of all obstinate, impenitent sinners. As God raised him up, — i. e., suffered him to go on to such a degree of wickedness, till he was ripe for destruction, that in him he might show his power, and cause his name to be declared throughout all the earth, so he suffers all sinners that finally perish to go on till they are fitted for destruction, that he may glorify himself in them; and it is from the instance of Pharaoh, and what God says of him, which St. Paul mentions in the seventeenth verse, that he is led to say what he does of finally impenitent sinners in general in the text under consideration.
He who can understand God's dealings with Pharaoh, and is reconciled to his suffering him to go on to so great a degree of wickedness that he might glorify himself in bim, and can see God's righteousness and wisdom in bringing this good out of Pharaoh's wickedness, he will easily see how God makes the sin of all that are finally impenitent a means of his own glory, and suffers them to go on to destruction that he may answer this end.
If any should say, “ Though God glorified himself by the great wickedness and obstinacy of Pharaoh, and does so by the sin and destruction of all that perish, yet God would be more glorified, and he would obtain a higher and better end, if neither Pharaoh nor any sinner went on in wickedness to final impenitence and destruction;" I say, if any should say so, I think they would contradict the Scripture texts we are
considering, or at least deny God's wisdom in his conduct in these instances. God says he suffered Pharaob to go on to the length he did in sin, until he was ripe for ruin, that he might glorify himself thereby. Now, if he would have had more glory, or as much, if Pharaoh had not gone on as he did, then God did not take the best method and use the best means to glorify himself by Pharaoh; and, therefore, did not act wisely in seeking to glorify himself by Pharaoh's obstinacy and ruin; for wisdom consists in choosing the best means to answer the best end. This may be applied to finally impenitent sinners in general. 3. The Scripture teaches us that God makes all the sins of
the beginning to the end of the world, to answer some good end. This we are particularly taught in the 76th Psalm, 10th verse. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.”
By the wrath of man we are to understand the wickedness of men in general, by which they violently oppose God and all that is good. It is here said, that all this wrath shall praise God, i. e., shall be to his honor and glory; so that that wrath, that wickedness of man which would not answer this end, God will effectually restrain, and not suffer to take place. So that by this Scripture we are assured that God is glorified by all the sin that is in the world; God makes it all the occasion of this good. And the reason why God lays the restraints on men that he does, and so prevents there being more sin than there is, is because more sin would not answer this end; for God will have nothing in his world but what he can bring good out of, and turn to his own glory.
Another text which I think is full to this purpose, is that noted one, " And it shall bruise thy head,” (Gen. iii. 15,) i. e., the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head; which is as much as to say, that Christ shall utterly and completely disappoint and defeat the devil in what he had done in introducing sin into the world. But this he would not do, if he did not turn the sin which the devil had been the means of bringing into the world into good, by making it the occasion of more, or at least as much good, as there would have been if there had been no sin. If there is one instance of sin which is not turned to good, the devil is not herein disappointed and defeated, but is gratified finally; his end is answered, and it is so far just as he would have it. So far he is not conquered by Christ, but he gains his point and is conqueror himself. If the devil has in any degree marred and spoiled the world, and made it upon the whole worse than it would have been if he had not introduced sin into it, notwithstanding what Christ VOL. II.