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complacency and delight, the attributes of Jehovah. But that the attributes of Jehovah may be discovered, and afford happiness to finite beings, they must be displayed. And that they may be displayed, there must be suitable subjects on whom they may be displayed. But the attribute of justice, can never be displayed, in the most perfect manner, to the apprehension of finite creatures, and the impression kept lively on the mind, without the eternal existence of sin and sinners.
6. Does God execute many of his decrees through the instrumentality of the wicked, and overrule their vicious conduct to advance his glory; then we see God's design, and the sinners', are always opposite, the one to the other. God has always a benevolent object in view. The wicked are always selfish in all their pursuits. God's design is, to display his character, and thereby produce the greatest happiness of his system. The sinner's design is, to gratify himself, at the risk of the happiness of the universe. God's design is, that all things and events shall conspire to advance his glory. But the sinner's design is, that all things shall conspire to gratify him, and p mote his happiness in his wickedness. But God designs, if sinners continue in their wickedness, to make them miserable. He is benevolent and holy in all his designs; but sinners are wicked and criminal in all their designs. Hence the designs of God and those of sinners, are always at variance. In the case of Joseph's brethren: "As for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good." So the design of Judas, in betraying our Lord, was to obtain thirty pieces of silver; but God meant the greatest happiness of the universe, in the future glory of a redeemed church.
7. From this subject we infer, that the decrees of God, and his efficiency in carrying them into execution, through the instrumentality of mankind, have no tendency to impair moral agency, or remove criminality. We may most clearly see, in every instance to which we have referred, to prove our doctrine, that the instruments whom God used to effect his purposes, were completely free, the most perfect moral agents, and criminal for all their wicked conduct, though under the constant influence of God's efficient will.
There is nothing plainer than this, that God decreed the conduct of Joseph's brethren, and then moved them to execute his purpose. The Psalmist says, "he sent a man before them, even Joseph;" to which Joseph adds, "God did send me before you; so now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God." But, notwithstanding this determination and efficiency, they said to Joseph, "Forgive I pray the now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin, for they did unto thee evil." Here they admit their criminality, and of course, their moral agency; for none but moral agents can be guilty of trespasses and sins. God's determination and agency, therefore, did not impair their
moral freedom. This fact is abundantly evident, from the conduct of Pharaoh. God had determined that he should resist the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, and told Moses of it before it took place; and also, to effect his object, that he would harden Pharaoh's heart. He afterwards told him, he had hardened his heart, and, that he might fulfil his designs, he had turned his heart against the people. Yet, however, Pharaoh says, 'I have sinned this time; the Lord is righteous, and I, and my people are wicked. I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you.' But how could Pharaoh sin against God and man, if he was not a moral agent? This could not be. Then this acknowledgment proves the moral agency of Pharaoh, and of course, that the decrees of God and divine efficiency, do not impair moral freedom.
This is also evident, from the solution of God's dealings with the king of Israel. God had determined that he should number Israel and Judah, and moved David to do it: II. Sam. xxiv. 1. “And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them, to say, go number Israel and Judah." But David was sensible of his freedom and accountability, and said, “I have sinned greally in that I have done; and now I beseech thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. I have sinned, and I have done wickedly." This plainly proves, that the decrees of God and his efficiency, in their execution through the instrumentality of mankind, have no tendency to destroy moral agency.
This further appears, from the facts related respecting the conduct of Judas. That he should betray our Lord, was distinctly foretold. "He that eateth with me, hath lifted up his heel against me." "He was delivered, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.' Yet Judas admits his guilt, and says, "I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood."
Hence, then, we see that the decrees of God, and divine efficiency, do not impair the moral agency of mankind.
8. Does God execute many of his decrees through the instrumentality of wicked men, and overrule their criminal conduct to advance his glory, or the highest happiness of the universe; then there is no propriety in being sorry for the existence of sin. To be sorry, in the sense here meant, is to wish sin had never existed. The existence of sin, is as necessary as the existence of holiness. It is necessary to bring into the universe the greatest possible sum of holiness and consequent happiness. This is certain, or God never would have suffered the existence of sin. If God saw this, and it is necessary to the greatest possible degree of holiness and happiness; then to be sorry for its existence, or to wish it had not been, is to be sorry for the existence of that, which God saw necessary for the greatest happiness of the universe; and to wish the sum of happiness in the universe
less, than it ultimately will be. This is to set our wisdom above the infinite wisdom of God. It is to be at perfect enmity with the designs and amiable plan and government of Jehovah. It is contending with a being of infinite power and benevolence.
If the amiable attributes of God could not have been so wisely and perfectly displayed without, as with, the existence of sin; then, to wish sin had not existed, is to wish that some of the adorable attributes of God had remained in eternal obscurity. It does not appear, that holiness consists in being sorry for the existence of past events; but in unconditional reconciliation to their existence, as necessary for the good of the universe. It is undoubtedly true, that God, angels and saints in heaven, are perfectly reconciled to the existence of all events which have ever taken place. Though sin is hateful and contrary to holiness, and the hearts of all holy beings detest it; yet, it is absurd to suppose, that God is sorry that it does exist. Then holiness does not consist in being sorry for the existence of sin. To suppose that God wishes that sin had not existed, is to suppose that he is unreconciled to his own system and government of the universe.
If God, angels and saints in heaven, are not on the whole unreconciled to the existence of sin, and do not wish that it had no being in the universe; then godliness does not require, on the whole, that saints on earth should be sorry for the existence of sin. If there is no propriety in being sorry for the existence of sin in the universe; then there is no propriety in being sorry for the existence of our own personal sins, or in wishing we had not sinned. All sin shall be overruled for the good of the universe, and is necessary for the greatest happiness of the system. If we are saved, our sins will be overruled for the good of the whole; and so it will be, if we are damned. Is it necessary to be reconciled to the existence of sin in the universe? then it is necessary to be reconciled to the existence of our own sins, and to the punishment they deserve, although it is eternal damnation. Hence said Joseph to his brethren, "Now, therefore, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you, to preserve life :" As much as if he had said: 'Be not sorry for the existence of your conduct, or wish that it had not taken place; for God will overrule it for the good of the universe. By this, our lives will be preserved, and the Messiah will come in the way which God has determined.' Had not this event taken place, the whole gospel scheme must have failed, and all mankind would have been eternally miserable. How wicked, then, it would have been for them to have wished, that the event had not taken place? But here we may observe; though there was no propriety in their wishing they had conducted differently, or in being sorry for selling their brother; yet, there was great propriety in their repenting of their extremely wicked conduct. There is a great difference between being sorry for
the existence of a sinful act, (as we have explained the term,) and repenting of the same act. To be sorry, is to wish it had not existed, which is "the sorrow of the world, that worketh death." In this, there is no holiness or real penitence. It may arise, wholly, from fear. The devils may be sorry, that their conduct has been such as to confine them down, eternally, in that place of torment. But devils never repent. They never love the law which curses them to eternal pain. They will be eternally unreconciled to the justice of a holy God. The murderer at the gallows, and the convict in the prison, may be sorry that they have conducted in such a manner, as to bring them to such ignominy and pain; and yet have no true penitence. All this may arise from a dread of shame and pain, and may be mistaken for repentance.
To repent, is to abhor sin in itself. It is not only to discover the deformity and awful nature of sin; but it is to have the heart rise in direct opposition to it. Persons may abhor sin, on account of the evil to which it exposes them, and not abhor it in itself, or aside from the punishment due to it. Persons may discover the deformity and awful nature of sin, by the consequences of it, and not find their hearts rise in direct opposition to it, in itself considered. Yea, they may love it, at the same time, and roll it as a sweet morsel under the tongue. A holy abhorrence of sin in ourselves and others, is the essence of evangelical repentance; and directly unlike to sin, and opposite to it. This temper not only discovers the deformity of sin, but feels an absolute opposition to the thing itself. And this opposition to sin in itself, without reference to the punishment which it may deserve and receive, is a holy exercise of heart; whereas, to be sorry for our sins, merely on account of the consequences which may overtake us, is an affection entirely different in its nature, and directly the reverse of genuine repentance. The one is an exercise entirely selfish; the other, is the fruit of a new heart: The latter, a saving grace; the former, having no existence in the hearts of perfectly holy beings in heaven,
This being the case, we see the importance of immediate repentance. This is absolutely necessary in order to obtain eternal life. "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." This is not a soul-tormenting feeling; but an adoring view of the amiable character of God, and a debasing view of ourselves. Hence said Job, 'I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.' And said the prodigal, 'I am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants.' This is not irreconciliation to God, nor contention with his character and government; but a rejoicing in both, and a humble submission to all his ways. It is that 'godliness which is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.' This holy temper brings the creature into
a moral likeness with his Creator. This prepares him to desire and wish the existence of every thing that God sees necessary to exist, to promote the highest happiness of the moral world. It brings the creature to seek the same objects which God seeks to be pleased with the same things with which he is pleased; and to abhor the same things which God abhors. In this penitent condition, the creature sees and feels, that God's ultimate object is, his own glory, or the greatest happiness of the universe; and that every object ought to be in subordination to this. It makes him willing to subordinate every thing, even his own interest, life, happiness and future destiny, of soul and body, for time and eternity. The question with him is not, what will become of me? Where shall I go? But what will advance God's glory the most? Let this be effected, and the greatest possible sum of happiness brought into the universe, if I am damned forever. This puts the creature in his proper place, at the feet of a sovereign God, for him to deal with him as he pleases. We are dying creatures, and must all appear at the tribunal of a sovereign and holy God. We must be reconciled to his attributes, his designs and government, or be eternally miserable. Then does it not concern every candidate for eternity, seriously to reflect on the temper of heart necessary to qualify him for the enjoyment of heaven? Are the things true, which we have been illustrating? they will create an eternal horror in the souls of all finally unregenerate, impenitent sinners. Sinners must be brought to submit to God's decrees, and love, and adore his character and providence, or sink down under his endless displeasure and wrath. Then let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.'
M. L. D.
FOR THE HOPKINSIAN MAGAZINE. LIBERTY AND NECESSITY.
MR. EDITOR-A Sermon has lately fallen into my hands, preached at Hanover, Mass. on the National Thanksgiving, February 19th, 1795, by Rev. John Mellen, from John viii. 36. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
The subject of this Sermon, as its text would lead us to expect, is "The Doctrine of Liberty," which the author distributes into three kinds: 1st, Natural or common liberty: 2d, Political or civil liberty: and 3d, Moral or religious liberty. This last kind of liberty he considers as opposed, first, to "human impositions and legal restraints"-secondly, to "human weakness and wickedness”—and thirdly, to "a supposed necessity in the nature of things, and government of the Most High."-"These two (moral liberty and necessity) be says, at first blush, appear wholly inconsistent with each other