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SERMON XII, .
Truths relating to God's character and governo
GENESIS, xviii, 25.
Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
HAT this rectitude is, and how it applies to: God, the great sovereign of the world, we have seen. And to improve the subject I shall observe,
1. That the view we have taken of it tends to impress upon our minds an idea of its immense importance. The subject of Deity must be vastly great and interesting. Here lies the great corner-stone of all being and happi. ness. To be acquainted with ourselves, is a matter of very weighty concern. And is it not also of first rate im.. portance, that we should have some just and clear notions of our origin, whence we sprang, who gave us being, and wherefore he has called us into existence, and goveros us by the irresistible hand of his providence, in the manner he does ? Man's relation to God is solemn and conse. quential in proportion to the dignity and majesty, under which the divine nature appears. They, who have de: feccive and narrow conceptions of God, will, in due proportion, be unawed by the consideration, that he is their
Pereign King and Lord. So far as we fall short of
Truths relating to God's character &c. 339
truth, in what we hold and realize, respecting the kingdom of God, his character and glory, we are unfitted for religions devotion, and for all the duties of true evangelis cal piety.
Again ; the greatness of our subject appears in the mystery and incomprehensibility of it. The mystery
of godliness is the greatest of all mysteries. It mocks and defies all human, nay, I ought to say, all created comprehension. Should it be said, that for this very reason, such kind of discourse ought to be dispensed with and laid aside entirely ; it may be answered, that when God and our own souls come to be of as little iniportance to us, as the most trivial affairs in common life, it will be well to practise upon this hint. But if we may not make use of any metaphysical discourse upon religious subjects; why is it, that we are so often driven to it, by the metaphysical objections, which people bring against the plain doctrines of the gospel ? If, for instance; you object against the doctrine of divine decrees, that it takes away the moral agency of the creature ; have we no right to explain moral agency, to prove that it is reconcilable with decrees? When people have become weary of abstruse, metaphysical reasonings, because they are unintelligible and unmeaning to them, let them be more cautious of opposing express scripture doctrines by metaphysical objections. Whenever it shall become sufficient for our faith to learn from the scriptures, that God has made all things for himself, and accordingly uses all creatures for his own glory, and does it by giving direction to universal being, and by rewarding some and punishing others; there will be no occasion for metaphysical arguments upon the subject. If, however, we cannot rest contented here, but must be told how these things can be ; let us dever complain, that we are plunged into an ocean of metaphys. ical discussion, where we can discover neither bottom, nor shore. It is the objector, who leads the way, and then repines at his fate, when he finds himself bewildered and lost. The subject of Deity, and our dependence upon him, is, indeed, a wonder ; and it is not strange that it should swallow us up. But who would not be willing, with Moses, to enter into the cloud, in which
the Majesty of heaven is wrapped up and which encir. cles the throne of God ?
2. The plan of doctrine, which I have been laying be. fore you, shows the impartiality of the Divine Being, that he is no respecter of persons.
God has not made angels, nor men, nor beings of any other grade, merely for the
purpose of making them happy or honourable but that his own glory may be promoted by them. And he makes them honourable and happy, or not, as is most, conducive to the display of himself, to the perfecting of his own infinite dignity and blessedness. How, tben, is he partial in raising up one to be a vessel of mercy, and another to be a vessel of wrath, when his whole conduct, in the matter, is guided by a design to exalt and magnify his own name, and not to exalt or dignify any creature ? unless it be partiality for God to make himself the sole end of all his works. This will, perhaps, be an objection with some, against the theory which has been laid down in the foregoing discussion. It will be said, if God has no other end in view, but to honour himself, to get glory to his own name, and bring out to view the intrinsic excellencies of his own nature, instead of being infinitely benevolent, he is iofinitely selfish, and, of course, infin. itely the most hateful being in the universe. To this I answer, that the sin of selfishness does not consist merely in one's loving himself to any degree whatever ; but in loving himself so, that it will imply hatred to others. That being, who can love himself to an unlimited degree, without wrong, or injustice, to others, is so far from being criminal, that he is actually praise-worthy, in it. But God's supreme and ultimate regard to himself is so far from operating to the disadvantage of the universe, or any part of it, that it lies at the very foundation of all intelli. gent happiness, arising from confidence in the Divine Being.
3. From our subject we may gain a strong consolation for the friends of God in troublous times, and in such scenes of adversity as often occur in providence. We live in an evil world, and in the midst of a depraved race of beings ; and are called to witness and feel many severities ; to dwell under darkened and beclouded skies, and
often to meet a 'tide of evils, too impetuous and over pow. ering to be resisted, or escaped without harm. To be an inhabitant of our world, and experience nothing but prosperity, is the lot of none. The order of events, established by infinite wisdom, often removes one pain only to give place to another. As the wheel of providence rolls round, where it presents one cheering and delightful prospect, such as is pleasant and soothing to the human eye, it disa closes many, that are sad and dispiriting. The pleasures of mankind lie at the
a thousand unforeseen casualties. We have no power over our own destiny'; and if we dream of pleasure and peace, instead of being realized, they yield up their place to solicitude and sorrow. This is no fancifal, or imaginary, case ; but accords with experience, with the known condition of mortal man. And has it no counterpart ? Is there nothing to quiet the mind, and produce a placid reconciliation, or a cheerful submission, to the evil that transpires ? Have we no con sideration at hand, that will be of sovereign efficacy to repress inquietude, by turning the horrors of night into the brightness and sweet refalgence of day? Yes, my hearers ; the truths of our subject are sun-beams to disa pel all the glooms, which brood over a miserable and ille fated world, where changes are numerous, none of which bring lasting enjoyment to man. Because there is a God we have reason to rejoice ; -and our joy which is built on him, no man taketh from us. Do we meet with adversity in ten thousand direful forms ? what do faith and the truths of our subject, but strip them of their exterior garb and present to our view a visage of such exquisite comeliness, as must enrapture the soul and fill it with joy? Do we behold huge foods of misery deluging the world, and happiness seemingly for ever expelled the abodes of men ? our subject still bids us rejoice, not that man is wretched ; ; but that the Judge of all the earth does right..
Our subject traces all these calamitous events to a cause, which, though its immediate effects are rigorous and pain. ful, is ultimately benevolent, and will not work more evil. than is necessary to good. It teaches us, that all these things are desirable, not in themselves, but in relation to the end, for which they are brought about. They are
not the offspring of chance, nor the engines of fate ; but the result of his wisdom and goodness, who is Lord of heaven and earth, and the means, by which he so governs, as to entitle himself to the confidence of his rational creatures. Could we believe, that ever a disastrous event took place in the world, adventitiously, or contrary to the plan of divine providence ; could we ever sufficiently be. wail the wretchedness of a world, whose well being is subject to be marred in this manner? Nay, should we not lament, in hopeless sorrow, the ruin of a system, that could not be protected and guarded in a more perfect man. ner? If so much as one melancholy scene, that does not essentially belong to an infinitely benevolent plan of government, may take place ; who will say where security may be looked for? or will dare conclude, that all is not, lost ? If, therefore, the government of God is in every thing, and nothing which does take place could have been dispensed with, or left out of the system, without injury to the ultimate object, which is the glory of God; then, those which we term unfortunate, are, on the whole, very fortunate events. They may, indeed, be unfavourable to certain private and partial interests ; but, in regard to the best, most important, and most general interest in the universe, they are needful ; and to have suppressed them, would have been an injury, and not a benefit. And a man, who believes, that it is better things should be as God or. ders them, than otherwise ; and that no event takes place without a divine.
and agency to produce it, cannot but derive great support from his faith, under such dispen. sations of providence, or in such seasons as wear a sorrowful and frowning aspect. In such circumstances, not to believe that God means it all for good, is really to be in a most perplexed and uncomfortable state of mind, if any thonghts are indulged upon the subject. There is not a person of thought and sensibibity, but must be affected, in some sort, with the movement of things, upon the wide theatre of the world. As a part of the great body of mankind, his sympathies must be excited. When clouds seem to thicken cver his head, wearing an angry, or portentous, aspect ; if he does not console hin:self with the thought, that they are the chariot in which Deity rides forth to