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all generations ;” that “ he is of one mind, and none can turn or disappoint him," who “worketh all things after the counsel of his own wise, unchangeable will."
This leads directly to the point before us. It must be determined by God whether there should be any fin and rebellion under his government, and among mankind. This depended wholly on the will of God. He was able to forbid and prevent the existence of it; and if it was contrary to wisdom, perfect rectitude and goodness, that is, if he saw it was not wifest and best, and necessary to effect the greatest good, on the whole, that sin fhould exist, he could and certainly would prevent the existence of it. There is therefore the greatest possible certainty, from the divine perfections, that sin does exist just in the manner and in that degree, and in every instance of it, with all the attendants and confequences of it which do or will take place, agreeable to the dictates and will of Infinite Wisdom and Goodness, as being necessary to accomplish the most wise and belt end, the greatest possible good of the universe; and the sin and misery which are not necessary to promote this end shall never exist, as it is contrary to infinite wisdom and goodness that it should. We may be as sure of this, as we are or can be of the being and perfections of God, or of any truth whatever, or even of our own existence. And to disbelieve and deny, or even to doubt of it, tends to atheifin, and is really a degree of it.
To suppose that God has not power and skili enough to prevent the existence of fin, and was not able to withhold man from finning, consistent with the perfect inoral freedom of man, if he had chosen to do it, is to suppose he is really unable to govern the world agreeable to his will, and therefore is not to be trusted in a inatter of infinite importance, and that he cannot be perfectly happy, but infinitely to the contrary, while he cannot prevent fin and misery taking place in a moit awful, undesirable and even infinite degree, molt contrary to what he would desire and wish, were he able to prevent it! And if God were not able thus
to prevent the existence of any of the fins which have been committed by man since his creation, then he cannot be fupposed to be able to prevent the existence of any supposed degree of fin in future in any moral agent ; consequently therefore there can be no ground of assurance, or the least evidence, either froin God, or from moral agents, or from any other quarter, that sin will not take place in every moral agent, even in all those who are now perfectly holy, and those who are holy in fome degree, in the greatest strength and to the utmoft degree of which they are capable, and that as long as they shall exist! On this supposition, how could God know what would take place among his creatures? And how can he declare and promise that fin shall be forever excluded from the holy angels and the redeemed from among men ? What shall we do with the declarations and promises of this kind abundantly made in the Bible ? Can there be
Can there be any reliance upon them? And what reason has any one to trust in God to preserve him from fin, and form him to holiness, or to ask him to do this ? Dreadful and horrible and presumptuous supposition ! most unreasonable, and big with consequences most terrible and destructive! It leads to the exclusion of divine revelation, and cuts off all trust and confidence in God in all matters of the greatest impor. tance, and excludes all belief of a particular and universal divine providence, and naturally leads to, and lands men in, the horrible darkness of infidelity and atheifin!
But if God be able to prevent the existence of fin, and it was wiselt and best, on the whole, that there should be no fin, then wisdom and goodness muft oppose the existence of it ; so that to fuppofe that it is not beft on the whole that fin should take place just as it does, is to suppose that God is neither wife nor good: for infinite wisdom and goodness, clothed with omnipotence, always prefer and effect that which is most wise and best, most for the glory of God and the greatest good of his eternal kingdom ; and will certainly and effè&ually prevent the existence of every thing which
cannot be made to promote this end. To deny or even to entertain the least doubt of this, and that all the fin with its attendants and consequences, which does or ever will exist, is necessary to effect the greatest good of the universe, the brightest display of the divine perfections, and the highest glory and happiness of his kingdom, is equally to deny or doubt of the infinite wisdom and goodness of God, and to represent him unworthy of the implicit trust and confidence of his creatures, and so to leave them without any God, or one who is rather to be dreaded, than loved and adored. How dishonourable to God this is, being as gloomy and shocking as atheism itself, every truly pious person cannot but discern and feel !
The holy scriptures, and our reason from the perfections of God, therefore join in declaring this truth, and oblige us to believe and say, “Surely the wrath of man fhall praise God, and the remainder of wrath he shall restrain,” in the sense in which these words have been explained and vindicated, viz. that all the evil which has taken place, or ever will exist, both moral and natural, fin and mifery, does take place, in every the least and greatest instance of it, under the superintendency and
direction of the infinitely wise and benevolent will of God, as necessary to promote the greatest possible good of the universe, his own glory, and the highest happiness of his moral, eternal kingdom. And he will reftrain and prevent the existence of all that which is not necessary to answer this end. •
This * This truth has been and still is greatly opposed, and many objections are made to it. It has been often and by many asserted, that if fin answers so good an end, then fin is a good thing, and the more there is of it the better; that this is the greatest encouragement to fin; and there is really no crime in fin, if so much good comes by it, and therefore finners cannot be justly blamed and punished for it. And it has been often said by those who think and profess themselves to be wise, that this doctrine is inconsistent with human liberty, and really makes God the author of all the fin that takes place. But the truth is great, and must and will prevail ; and the folly of all these objectors, who understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm, shall be manifest unto all men.
This is equally true of all the fin and rebellion of the fallen angels, with all the attendants and consequences of this. Their fins are many ways connected with the fins of men. They were the wicked instruments of introducing in among mankind, and are represented in the scriptures, as having a great hand in all the fins which are committed by men, and deceiving and tempiing the whole world of mankind. They are allowed to come down to the earth in great wrath against God and man, and to go forth to the whole world, to excite them to unite in horrible war against God. But they are in the hand of God, and under his restraints; and when they have done all the work he designs they shall do, he will cast them into the bottomless pit, and shut them up, and set a feal upon them, that they should deceive the nations no more, till the proper time shall come to let them loose again. Thus the wrath of devils shall praise God, and the remainder of their wrath he shall restrain.
IMPROVEMENT. This subject affords matter of sufficient support, of great comfort and joy, to the true friends of God, in the midst of all the evil, both fin and misery, which may take place. The Lord reigneth, clothed with omnipotence, infinitely wise and good, juft and true. He is above all controul. He hath done, and will do, whatever he pleaseth, in heaven and in the earth. He is infinitely above all possibility of any disappointment, or of being opposed so as not to accomplish all his defigns in the best and most perfect manner.
All the rebellion, sin and suffering of creatures, that do or ever
It is needless to attempt to answer any of thefe objections here, as this has been publicly done over and over again. If any have a defire to see them answered, they may find it done, in President Edwards's Treatise on Freedoni of Will, Dr. West's Essay on Moral Agency, Dr. Edwards's Differtation concerning Liberty and Neceflity, the author's System of Doctrines contained in Divine Revelation, and his Sermons on Rom. iii. 5, 6, 7, 8.
will, take place, are so far from frustrating his designs, that they are intended and ordered to take place just as they do, as necessary to make the greatest possible manifeftation of his perfections, and promote the greatest good of his kingdom. There is not the least sin in thought, word or deed, nor the least instance of pain, nor can any evil exist, greater or less, which is not designed to answer fome good end, so that it is best that it should exist just as it does. Then let the friends of God rejoice in him who made them and all things else, and orders every event, great and small, for the best. Let the children of Zion rejoice in their King : yea, let them always rejoice.
The Lord Jesus Christ, our God, who was once manifested in flesh, is received up into glory, has fat down on the throne of the universe, possessed of all power in heaven and earth, and having all things, angels, men and devils, in his hand, reigns over all, and will reign, till he has, in the best time and manner, completely accomplished his infinitely wise and good designs ; deftroyed the works of the devil, by wholly defeating, confounding and disappointing him and all who join with him, in all their attempts against him, and opposition to him, and turning all they have done or will do, and all that does or will take place respecting them, to answer his own ends, to the greater glory of God, and to make his work in the redemption of finners more perfect and glorious. He having by his sufferings and obedience made an atonement for sin, and obtained righteousness for the justification of finners, is thus exalted to give repentance and forgiveness of fins, and everlasting life to all who believe on his name, and come unto him ; being able to save to the uttermost all them who come unto God by him. And as none of the human race will come to him, though all who hear the gospel are invited, unless they be drawn by the Spirit of God, and made willing by his power and grace, he in this exerciseth his sovereignty, and has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.