Page images

A very

which God ordained before the world unto our glory : Which none of the princes of this world knew ; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of of Glory.” I am of the mind, that it would be no error to say, that more scripture is fulfilled by the wicked conduct of men, than by their good deeds. By scripture here I do not mean divine requirements ; but divine predictions ; the same that the apostle meant, when he said,

- Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the holy Ghost, by the mouth of D.kvid, spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.” large proportion of holy writ consists of predictions of future events, relating not only to the state of the church, but to other portions of mankind also. These events, in vast. many instances, are brought about in provie. dence, by the instrumentality of wicked men entirely ; such as the various destructions of mankind by the sword, which were foretold, but not commanded. It was foretold to A. braham, that his seed should sojourn four hundred years in Egypt, in a state of afflic- . tion. This scripture God fulfilled by the instrumentality of several classes of wicked men; Joseph's brethren in selling their brother, who afterwards provided them a. settlement in that country, and the Egyptions in laying them under cruel tasks and exactions. The dismemberment of the kingdom of Israel, by the revolt of the ten tribes

was predicted, and afterwards fulfilled thro' the wicked intrigues and irreligious craft of Jeroboam, on the one hand, and the inconsiderate rashness and foolhardiness of Reho. boam on the other. “ Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people ; for the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam, the Son of Nebat.” The seventy years captivity of Judah, and their after return, were predicted ; and the events were accomplished, the one by the instrumentality of Nebuchadnezzar, and the other by that of Cyrus, both of whom were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and, for aught that appears, real enemies to the true God. Many other great events were foretold, particularly by the prophet Daniel, which have been fulfilled in the desolation of ancient kingdoms and empires, accomplished by the inveterate wars, which vanity and thirst of power have fomented. All these are instances of the fulfilment of scripture by the instrumentality of the wicked. Af. ter the birth of Christ, Herod fulfilled the scriptures by murdering all the innocent babes of Bethlehem. Judas also fulfilled the scriptures by his perfidy in betraying the Saviour, and the persecuting Jews by bringing Paul before kings and rulers. The Romans fulfilled the words of Christ in com. passing Jerusalem with armies, and laying her stones even with the dust. The wicked have, ever since, been fulfilling the scriptures in

their various mutual conflicts, in their more private offences, and in their united opposi. tion to the cause of God. " For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

We proceed to a

4th. Argument in defence of the doctrine under discussion, which is, that prayer is offered to God upon the principle, that all creatures are dependent upon and subordi. nate to him, as the instruments of his provi. dence. If this principle be not granted, the mouths of the saints, of all God's praying people, will be effectually shut, in respect to most of those humble petitions, which are dictated by their piety. If the king's heart is not turned by the hand of the Lord, even as the rivers of water are turned; what encouragement have his subjects to pray for peace, and the blessings of good governinent under his reign ? Their offering such a re. quest to the most high God, implies a belief, that it is his province to work, by the instru. mentality of men, in securing to the subjects of his favour those benefits, which appertain to the social state, and are the result of that connection, which subsist between man and man. If men act any otherwise than as the instruments of divine providence, they, and not God, should be supplicated, in prayer, when those things are needed, which are to flow immediately from their hands. In this case, Daniel, instead of making his supplication to God, as he did with great humility and fervour, for the return of the Jewish captivity, should have prostrated himself be, fore the king of Persia, whose decree was necessary to procure the release of the captives. How could Daniel, or any of his pią ous brethren in captivity, indulge a hope of ever escaping from that forlorn state, otherwise than by trusting in God, that he would put it in the hearts of their rulers to liberate them and give them permission to return to their own land ? As God had brought them there without a miracle, so they had no reason to anticipate a miracle to bring them back again. Their redemption was to be effected in a way of human means and exertions. Accordingly, Nehemiah made application to Artaxerxes for his patronage in aid of the work of restoring Jerusalem to it3 former glory, as the place of God's peculiar residence, and the dwelling place of the church. But this did not supercede his praying to God, as the power, on whom alone the success of the undertaking would ultimately depend. " Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request ? So I prayed toʻthe God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, un. to the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it."

He first prayed to God, and then presented his petition to the king; which implies his acknowledgment of God, as the

supreme orderer and disposer of events, and the need of creatures as instruments, by which God delivers his people from a state of adversity. This doctrine of God's abso. Jute dominion over the hearts of men, even of the wicked, and his use of them as the instruments of his providence, is contained in queen Esther's instructions to Mordecai, upon the occasion of her proposed appearance before the king tosue for the life of her people, whose extermination was threatened and even resolved upon.

Mordecai had, by a messenger, represented to Esther the need of her making intercession to the king, upon this occasion. But it was hazardous to the life of any one to come in before the king, unless called for. " Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer ; Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shu. shan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night nor day : I also and my maidens will fast likewise, and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish I perish.” The object of this fast was to procure, by humility and prayer, for the queen a favourable reception and audience with the king ; which is tantamount to say, ing, that God acts upon the hearts of men, even the wicked, to bring good to pass for those he loves, and that, in this way, they become instrumental of what he designs towards the subjects of his government. Upon what other ground could the apostle Paul

« PreviousContinue »