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side, doth no way prejudice the liberty of second causes, in their actions, agreeable to the natures they are endued withal. He who made and preserves the fire, and yet hinders not but that it should burn, or act necessarily agreeable to its nature; by his making, preserving, and guiding of men, hindereth not, yea, effectually causeth, that they work freely, agreeable to their nature. Nor yet, thirdly, to clear up what a straight line runs through all the darkness, confusion, and disorder in the world, how absolutely, in respect of the first fountain and last tendency of things, there is neither deformity, fault, nor deviation, every thing that is amiss consisting in the transgression of a moral rule, which is the sin of the creature, the first cause being free:-as he that causeth a lame man to go, is the cause of his going, but not of his going lame;—or the sun exhaling a smell from the kennel, is the cause of the smell, but not of its noisomeness; for from a garden his beams raise a sweet savour. Nothing is amiss but what goeth off from its own rule; which he cannot do who will do all his pleasure, and knows no other rule.
But omitting these things, I shall tie my discourse to that which I chiefly aimed at in my proposition; viz., to discover how the great variety which we see in the dispensation of the means of grace, proceedeth from, and is regulated by, some eternal purpose of God, unfolded in his word. To make out this, we must lay down three things.
1. The wonderful variety in dispensing of the outward means of salvation, in respect of them unto whom they were granted, used by the Lord since the fall;—I say, since the fall, for the grace of preserving from sin, and continuing with God, had been general, universally extended to every creature; but [as] for the grace of rising from sin, and coming again unto God, that is made exceeding various, by some distinguishing purpose.
2. That this outward dispensation being presupposed, yet in effectual working upon particular persons, there is no less variety; for "he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy.
3. Discover the rules of this whole administration.
1. For the first, The promise was at first made unto Adam, and by him doubtless conveyed to his issue, and preached to the several generations which his eyes beheld proceeding from his own loins;' but yet by the wickedness of the old world, all flesh corrupting their ways, we may easily collect that the knowledge of it quickly departed
· Non tantum res, sed rerum modos.
“Videtur ergo quod non sit aliqua deordinatio, deformitas, aut peccatum sim. pliciter in toto universo, sed tantummodo respectu interiorum causarum, ordinationem superioris causæ volentium, licet non valentium, perturbare.”—Brad, de Caus. Dei, lib. i. cap. 34.
3 Η αμαρτία εστίν ή ανομία. * " Adeo summa justitiæ regula est Dei voluntas, ut quicquid vult, eo ipso quod vult, justum habendum sit.”—Aug., Isa. xlvi. 10. 5 Gen. iii. 15, iv. 26.
from the most;—sin banishing the love of God from their hearts,
2. Presupposing this variety in the outward means, how is it that
Gen. vi. 5. Gen. v. 24, vi. 18, xii. 1, xviii. 1,2; Ps. lxxvi. 1, 2; John iv, 22.
• See Tertullian, Lib. ad Jud., reckoning almost all the known nations of the
tyr, Jacob and Esau had the same outward advantages; but the one becomes Israel, the other Edom,—the one inherits the promises, the other sells his right for a mess of pottage. At the preaching of our Saviour, some believed, some blasphemed;—some said he was a good man; others said, nay, but he deceived the people. Have we not the word in its power this day, and do we not see the like various effects,—some continuing in impenitency, others in sincerity closing with Jesus Christ ? Now, what shall we say to these things? What guides these wheels ? who thus steers his word for the good of souls ? Why, this also, as I said before, is from some peculiarly distinguishing purpose of the will of God.
3. To open the third thing proposed, I shall show,-(1.) That all this variety is according to God's determinate purpose, and answereth thereunto; (2.) The particular purposes from whence this variety proceedeth.
(1.) Eph. i. 11, “He worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will." As a man may be said to erect a fabric' according to the counsel of his will, when he frameth it before in his mind, and maketh all things in event answer his preconceived platform, -all things (especially så návra, all those things of which the apostle there treateth, gospel things) have their futurition and manner of being from his eternal purpose: --whence also is the idea in the mind of God of all things, with their circumstances, that shall be; that is, the first mover, continuing itself immovable, giving to every thing a regular motion, according to the impression which
from that it doth receive: “ For known unto him are all his works from the beginning of the world,” Acts xv. 18.
If any attendants of actions might free and exempt them from the regular dependence we insist upon, they must be either contingency or sin; but yet for both these we have, besides general rules, clear, particular instances. What seems more contingent and casual than the unadvised slaying of a man with the fall of the bead of an axe from the helve, as a man was cutting wood by the way side? Deut. xix. 5; yet God assumes this as his own work, Exod. xxi. 13. The same may be said of free agents and their actions. And for the other, see Acts iv. 27, 28,-in the crucifying of the Son of God's love, —all things came to pass according as his counsel had before determined that it should be done. Now, how in the one of these liberty
· Piscat, in loc.
Πάντα δε λίγω τα ουκ εφ' ημίν, τα γαρ εφ' ημίν, ου της προνοίας, αλλά του ήμισίρου αυτε. kovciou.-_Damascen. Satis impie.
* Matt. a. 29; Job xiv. 5; Prov. xvi. 33, xxi. 1, 30, xix. 21. “Nihil fit nisi omni. potens fieri velit, vel ipse faciendo, vel sinendo ut fiat.”-Aug.
• Gen. iv. 5-7; 1 Kings xxii. 19-21; 2 Kings v. 18, 19; Ps. lxxvi. 10; Eccles. vii, 26; Isa. vi. 9-11, &c.
is not abridged, the nature of things not changed in the other, sin is not countenanced," belongs not to this discourse. “The counsel of the LORD,” then, "standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart unto all generations,” Ps. xxxiii. 11. “His counsel standeth, and he will do all his pleasure," Isa. xlvi. 10. For he is the LORD, and he changeth not, Mal. iii. 6. With him is neither variableness nor shadow of turning, James i. 17. All things that are, come to pass in that unchangeable method in which he hath laid them down from all eternity.
(2.) Let us look peculiarly upon the purposes according to which the dispensations of the gospel, both in sending and withholding it, do proceed.
[1.] For the not sending of the means of grace unto any people, whereby they hear not the joyful sound of the gospel, but have in all ages followed dumb idols, as many do unto this day.
In this chapter of which we treat, the gospel is forbidden to be preached in Asia and Bithynia;—which restraint, the Lord by his providence as yet continues to many parts of the world. Now, the purpose from whence this proceedeth, and whereby it is regulated, you have, Rom. ix. 22, “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?" compared with Matt. xi. 25, 26, “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight;" and with Acts xiv. 16,– he “suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. "
Now, God's not sending the truth, hath the same design and aim with his sending the efficacy of error; viz., “that they all may be damned” who have it not; "there being no other name under heaven, whereby they may be saved," but only that which is not revealed unto them;
- God, in the meantime, being no more the cause of their sins, for which they incur damnation, than the sun is the cause of cold and darkness, which follow the absence thereof; or he is the cause of a man's imprisonment for debt, who will not pay his debt for him, though he be no way obliged so to do. So, then, the not sending of the gospel to any people, is an act regulated by that eternal purpose of God whereby he determineth to advance the glory of his justice, by permitting some men to sin, to continue in their sin, and for sin
1“ Deus non operatur in malis, quod ei displicet ; sed operatur per eos quod ei placet, recipientur vero non pro eo, quod Deus bene usus est ipsorum operibus malis, sed pro eo, quod ipsi male abusi sunt Dei operibus bonis."--Fulgent. ad Monim.
? 2 Thess. ii. ; Acts iv. 3“ Liberatur pars hominum, parte pereunte. Sed cur horum sit misertus Deusillorum non misertus, quæ scientia comprehendere, quæ potest investigare sapientia? Latet discretionis istius ratio, sed non latet ipsa discretio.”—Prosp. de Vocat. Gen., [lib. i. cap. 15.]
to send them to their own place ;—as a king's not sending a pardon to condemned malefactors is an issue of his purpose that they shall die for their faults. When you see the gospel strangely, and through wonderful varieties and unexpected providences, carried away from a people, know that the spirit which moves in those wheels is that purpose of God which we have recounted.
[2.] To some people, to some nations, the gospel is sent. God calls them to repentance and acknowledgment of the truth, -as in my text, Macedonia: and England, the day wherein we breathe. Now, there is in this a twofold aim. 1. Peculiar, towards some in their conversion. 2. General, towards all, for conviction. And therefore it is acted according to a twofold purpose, which carries it along, and is fulfilled thereby
First, His purpose of saving some in and by Jesus Christ, effcutually to bring them unto himself, for the praise of his glorious grace. Upon whomsoever the seal of the Lord is stamped, that God knows them, and owns them as his, to them he will cause his gospel to be revealed. Acts xviii. 10, Paul is commanded to abide at Corinth, and to preach there, because God had much people in that city. Though the devil had them in present possession, yet they were God's in his eternal counsel. And such as these they were for whose sake the man of Macedonia is sent on his message. Have you never seen the gospel hover about a nation, now and then about to settle, and anon scared and upon wing again; yet working through difficulties, making plains of mountains and filling valleys, overthrowing armies, putting aliens to flight, and at length taking firm root like the cedars of God? Truly if you have not, you are strangers to the place wherein you live. Now, what is all this but the working of the purpose of God to attain its proposed end, of gathering his saints to himself? In the effectual working of grace also for conversion and salvation, whence do you think it takes its rule and determination, in respect of particular objects, that it should be directed to John, not Judas,-Simon Peter, not Simon Magus? Why, only from this discriminating counsel of God from eternity, to bring the one and not the other to himself by Christ. “The Lord added to the church such as should be saved,” Acts ii. 47. The purpose of saving is the rule of adding to the church of believers. And Acts xiii. 48, “As many
believed as were ordained to eternal life.” Their fore-ordain
Rom. viii. 28, 29; Eph. i. 4; 2 Tim. ii. 19.
? Eph. ii. 1, 11. * "Non ob aliud dicit, non vos me elegistis, sed ego vos elegi, nisi quia non elegerunt eum, ut eligeret eos; sed ut eligerent eum, elegit eos.
Non quia prescivit eos credituros, sed quia facturus ipse fuerit credentes. Electi sunt itaque ante mundi constitutionem, eâ prædestinatione, quâ Deus ipse sua futura facta prævidit: electi sunt autem de mundo eâ vocatione, quâ Deus id, quod prædestinavit, implevit.” -August. de Prædest. Sanctorum. cap. xvi., xvii.