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And his will is infinitely wife, right and good. It is not beft that all mankind fhould be faved, moft for the glory of God, and the greatest good of the whole; but, that the defign of Chrift in dying to redeem finners may in the best manner and highest degree be answered, some must be given up to the deftruction which they deferve; and who is better able to determine this, and how many and what individuals fhall be faved, than He who is infinite in wisdom, rectitude and goodness, who cannot make any miftake, or do the leaft wrong to any creature? Yea, who can do it but He? Every one who has a spark of true wifdom and goodness will earnestly defire that He may fix this matter with respect to every individual; and rejoice that it is, and will be, done by Him. And who has a better, or any right to do this, than He who has made and is the abfolute and only proprietor of all creatures? "Hath not the potter power over the clay of the fame lump, to make one veffel unto honour and another unto difhonour ?"
To every benevolent friend of Chrift the Saviour, it is moft defirable and pleafing that he fhould have ail things in his hand, and fave as many and whom he will, and leave whom he will to deftruction. He has a peculiar right to this, fince he has been at fuch infinite expenfe to redeem finners, that he fhould accomplish the end of his fufferings and death in the best manner, and fee of the travail of his foul and be fatisfied, to have every thing effected with regard to the redemption of man fo as in the highest degree to please his wifdom and goodnefs. To this end he has every creature and thing in the universe put into his hands, and he directs every motion and event among creatures to anfwer the purpofe for which he died, which he will accomplish in the beft manner, perfectly agreeable to infinite wifdom and goodnefs. He will fave all of the human race who can be faved confiftent with wifdom and infinite goodness. And to all who truft in him he is an almighty friend and protector, and will fecure them from all evil, and taufe all things to work together for their good, and
will make them perfectly holy, and carry them through death to heaven in the beft manner and time, and they fhall inherit all things forever.
In fum, all things and every event are conftantly under the direction and controul of infinite wisdom, rectitude and goodness, and are conducted and going on in the best manner, as fast as can be, to the most agreeable and happy iffue poffible, the greatest, most bright and happifying exhibition of the divine character, and the highest glory and felicity of the everlasting kingdom of God, from which no creature will be excluded, but those whose presence there is inconfiftent with the glory of God, and the greateft good of his kingdom, and therefore contrary to wisdom and goodness, and who do at the fame time exclude themfelves. Every thing, circumftance and event is right; and all confpire to promote the greateft good, and, all things confidered, it is on the whole beft that they fhould be just what they are, and take place exactly as they do. No alteration can poffibly be made, without injuring and fpoiling the divine plan, formed by infinite understanding, wildom and goodness. All this is to be feen with the greatest certainty in the infinitely important and excellent character, works, and revealed designs, of the glorious Saviour of the world.
Surely no intelligent and truly benevolent person can believe and realize all this without feeling a peculiar pleasure and joy, which will more than fupport him under, and counterbalance, all the evil which he may feel, or that is in his view. He can, with peculiar fatiffaction and joy, fay, "Surely the wrath of man fhall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath thou shalt retrain. The Lord Jefus Chrift reigns, let the earth rejoice. Rejoice always in the Lord, and again I fay, rejoice evermore; for He brings the greateft good out of all evil, and this fhall certainly be the happy iffue of He is the rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity, juft and right is He."
Here it may be useful to attend to and anfwer feveral queftions which may arife in the minds of fome.
QUESTION. How can we have any joy or comfort in any or all of this, while we do not know, and have little or no evidence or hope, that we are interested in all this good, but fear that Chrift does not intend to fave us, and that we shall perish forever? If we knew we were Chriftians, and real friends to Chrift, and fhould be faved, this would give us comfort and joy; but as we know not that this is true, and do often much doubt of it, what is all the good, which has been reprefented as the iffue of all evil, to us, while we know not that we fhail have any part in it; but may be caft off, and miferable forever?
ANSWER. If you are wholly felfish, and have no defire that God may be glorified, and the greatest good of his kingdom promoted, and can take no pleasure in the profpect and affurance of this, unless you are certain your own personal happiness will be fecured and promoted hereby, then this difcovers and decides your ftate and character, that you are not a real friend to Christ and his church, and no true Chriftian. All your hope and thoughts of this are a mere delufion, and ought to be immediately difmiffed. You must be born again of the Holy Spirit, and become new creatures, before you can be Chriftians. But if you have any true benevolence, and are friends to Chrift and his caufe and intereft, and the greatest happinefs of his church and kingdom, you cannot but have comfort, pleafure and joy in the view and affurance that all things and every event, however evil and of a bad tendency in itself, will be overruled by him for his honour and the greatest good of his kingdom; that his intereft is fecure, and will be promoted by every thing that takes place, without confidering your own perfonal intereft, whether this is fecure or not. And indeed you cannot know or have any ground to think or hope that you have an intereft in Christ, and shall be saved, until you have this benevolent affection towards Chrift and his people, and are confcious
confcious that it does take place in your hearts in fome degree, or those exercises which imply this, or are implied in it. But when these exercises and benevolent affections take place in your hearts, and arife to fuch ftrength and conftancy, that, when you reflect upon your own views and feelings, you are confcious that you have them, that you are pleafed and have enjoyment and comfort in the thought and affurance that Chrift will get honour by all the fins of men, and oppofition made to him by men and devils, and the confequent ruin of those who perifh, and that all will iffue in the greatest poffible good, on the whole, you will have reafon to hope and conclude that you are friends to Chrift, and fhall partake in all the happiness and glory of his eternal kingdom, and may, in this way arrive to a degree of affurance of it. And this is the only proper and fafe way of obtaining a true and well grounded hope and confidence that you are real Chrif tians, and fhall be faved. And as this hope increases and continues, your comfort and joy will be increased. But your comfort and joy does not fo depend upon or confift in this, that, if this confidence and hope fhould give way to doubt and fear, all your comfort and joy would ceafe; you could and would even then rejoice in the character, glory and happiness of the Saviour, and that all things were conducted by him fo as to answer the beft end; that he would fave all that can be faved confiftent with wisdom and goodness, with his glory and the greatest good of his church, whether you are included in that number or not: and if you find you can and do rejoice in this view, it is a good, perhaps the best evidence, that you belong to that number.
There are too many profeffing Chriftians whofe religious comfort and joy appear to confift wholly in a hope or confidence that they fhall be faved; their comfort rifes in proportion to the degree and ftrength of their hope, and when that finks and fails, and is even given up, their comfort is all gone, and all is darkness and gloom; fo that all light and comfort with them in
their religion confifts in thinking, or a hope, that their own perfonal intereft is fecure, and all their religious darkness and trouble arife from doubts of this. Their comfort firft began in a hope and belief that they fhould be faved, and ftill depends wholly upon this. This does not look like the experience of true Chriftians, but to be a wholly felfish religion, as different from real Chriftian exercifes, as darkness is from light.
QUESTION II. But muft Chriftians pay no regard to their own intereft? May they not feel and dread perfonal pain and mifery? And may not their own fins and fufferings occafion grief and forrow? And ought they not to feel for the fins and calamities of others, and the finful, wretched ftate of mankind in general, and mourn and lament, in the view of thefe evils? Muft they always be all joy and gladnefs, and feel no mental pain and forrow?
ANSWER. A Chriftian ought to regard his perfonal intereft according to its comparative greatnefs and real worth; but muft have no intereft of his own, diftinct and feparate from the general intereft, or the highest and beft intereft of the whole univerfe. This is the intereft to be regarded and fought fupremely, and the in, Telt of every individual of this whole, according to the importance and worth of it; and as this muft be fmall and inconfiderable in comparifon with the grand intereft of the whole, it must be difregarded and given up, if it be inconfiftent with the greateft good of the whole. And he muft and will have an averfion from and dread of perfonal pain and fuffering, as it is in itfelf an evil; but this is confiftent with rejoicing at the fame time in the happinefs of others, and in the greatest general good, and he will have a peculiar fatisfaction and joy when he believes and realizes that his pain and fuffering will promote the good of the whole, which is in all inftances true by the fuperintending care of the Redeemer. Thus the apoftles, when they were beaten and put to fhame by the council of the Jews, "departed