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receives distinct commendation from the Lord, for the part that he has played in the fearful tragedy of Jezabel, and the sons of Ahab. (2 Kings, x. 30.) Nevertheless, though the particular application is wrong the general principle here suggested is right ; and to this now turn-It may be thus stated :
That Divine purposes are sometimes accomplished by wicked agents ; but that this in nowise excuses the agents themselves, or shields them from merited punishment. No one can read the Old Testament Scriptures, or the New, without finding this principle again and again enforced. The sword in the hands of cruel and ambitious tyrants is often used by the King of Kings as an instrument of His righteous wrath; yet “ they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword.”
The smiter is smitten, the oppressor is oppressed, the spoiled is spoiled. This may
be illustrated :
I. BY MANY FACTS IN HUMAN HISTORY.
First: Look at facts in the history of nations. Consider how important a part the nations mentioned in Scripture played in the education, discipline, and chastisement of the chosen people. Take Egypt-its pride, its idolatry, its oppression, are under God, instruments of culture upon the soil of the Hebrew mind; indispensable, as we should say, to the fruitfulness afterwards attained.
Long before Joseph fled from Herod, with the child Jesus, into Egypt, there had been a fulfilment, at least in part of the prophecy—“Out of Egypt have I called my son.” But does Egypt stand excused because it thus executed divine purposes ? In nowise, for an earlier prediction still had said that, that nation should afflict the Lord's people four hundred years, and afterwards, that nation“ will I judge said God.” Look at Babylon : it too, in the way of chastisement for sin, was used in the discipline of the house of Jacob, as certainly as the kingdom of the Pharaohs. It is remarkable that after the chastisement of the Babylonish captivity,
the Jews no more relapsed into idolatry; so that the judgment of Babylon was a judgment of mercy. It wrought upon Israel a divine work. Yet it did it, in the wantonness and pride of its heart; and, what was said of Babylon ! “ Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served
The judgment came: The handwriting upon the wall appeared—and Babylon, the Lady of Kingdoms, ceased to be a kingdom.
Rome too, with all its strength and influence, and blasphemy, was an instrument in the hand of the Great God for executing His judgments upon Jerusalem ;—where the carcass was, the eagles (vultures) were gathered together.” When Jerusalem had become a loathsome corpse, instead of a living body, poisoning the very air around, it had to be removed, and the Romans were the vultures that removed it; and when they in their turn had become only corrupt, God brought other vultures upon them; and though the destruction of Jerusalem was one means of spreading the Gospel yet the destroyer had to be destroyed. God used these nations for His purposes of judgment and of mercy, overruling even their sins to His ends, and when they had done their work, like a sword that is shivered as it pierces the foe, He flung them aside from His hand.
Secondly: Look at facts in the history of individuals. There is Jacob concerning whose relation to Esau the prophecy stands that “the elder shall serve the younger;" yet how utterly detestable the means ;—the lies, the trickery, the fraud, by which the end is attained. For the purposes of God I have respect, and I know that they shall stand, but for the means used by Jacob and his mother, I have the utmost abhorrence and contempt. My sympathy as I read the narration is rather with Esau than with Jacob, and when I see the latter an exile and wanderer-I see in this the chastisement of Heaven for his sins. afterwards, the deceiver is himself deceived and cheated by Laban, I see in this a righteous retribution, from which let no deceiver, or worker of any sort of iniquity, be the ends
which he proposes what they may, flatter himself he shall escape. There again is the strange strange story of Joseph and his brothers, how wonderfully the various sins mixed up with their eventful history seem to form links in the great chain of Providence. The murderous designs and falsehoods of his brethren ; their wicked traffic with the Ishmaelites, in their own flesh and blood ; the lustfulness and lies of the wife of Potiphar; the oppression of the Pharaoh that knew not Joseph; all these become tributary to the present result. But are any of these sins to be excused ? Are the agents to go unpunished? Had they peace? Look at Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea ; look at the remorse and fear of Joseph's brethren; and as for the wife of Potiphar, her ungratified passion, together with Joseph's exaltation, would gnaw like a vulture at her heart.
It is illustrated :
II. IN THE GREAT CENTRAL FACT OF CHRISTIANITY. I mean the crucifixion of the Lord. Here, the divinest purpose works itself out by the most satanic agency. The noblest deed of love ever wrought by the Great God of love himself, combines with the meanest, foulest, deed of hatred, ever wrought by man, in the great agony of the cross ! “ Him," says Peter, “ being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”—And yet one step further—“I wot that through ignorance ye did it.” So that here the chosen channels through which divine wisdom and divine love pour themselves upon us are human ignorance and wickedness ! "O the depth of the riches," &c. And as the closing act of that great life, given for our life, illustrates our principle, so do all the steps which lead on to the great issue. Mark the plots, the conspiracies of pharisees, and priests, and elders. “ The Son of Man must suffer ? -so says He and so say they! And here, I merely remark, that to the sentence which states the principle we are discussing, I might add another member :- viz., That if those wicked agents who, consciously or unconsciously, carry out divine purposes, repent of their sin, they are not excluded from participation in the good they have been instrumentally, and sinfully, accomplishing
There is divine philosophy in Joseph's words to his conscience-stricken, penitent brethren--"Ye meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”........ Let Judas himself know that if he repent truly of his sin, the betrayed to the Jews shall be his deliverer from perdition! In vain does Pilate wash his hands before the multitude ; but let him before God, when the deed is done, confess his sin and cry for mercy, and the blood spots he fain would wash away become the healing power of his soul.
Go and preach my Gospel, “ beginning at Jerusalem.” If you meet with him that smote me on the face, tell him I was bruised for his iniquities ! go; and if you meet with him that put the cruel crown of thorns upon my head, tell him of the crown of righteousness that I will give; go! and if you meet with that poor wretch that pierced my side, tell him, that the blood he shed has power to cleanse his soul from all the guilt it then incurred ! Indeed, were it not so, what hope should we have ? for did not our sins also slay the Lord ?
It is illustrated :
III. IN THE DISSEMINATION OF THE GOSPEL.
Means in themselves inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel, are in the order of Divine providence, indirectly employed. The great revolt in India seems wonderfully to have issued in such a desire for the Gospel as the missionaries never before have witnessed. Or to turn, somewhat abruptly indeed, to another class of means, we may refer for a moment to the fact that in some cases, for mere selfish and deceitful ends, the Gospel is sometimes preached, and with accompaniments that jar strangely with its deep spiritual harmonies. “What. then? Every way whether in pretence or in earnest, Christ is preached;" and therein we will rejoice.
When we see the Gospel caricatured, the pulpit turned into a stage, and the preacher into a mountebank ; when we see mechanical and histrionical revivals “ got up, ” we feel that no good can be, or ought to be, done ; but God is much wiser and more merciful than we are—far more patient and tolerant—and to our surprise we sometimes see the “fruits of the spirit ” where we had considered the spirit could not be.
Amongst the various forms of prayer used by us dissenters, this is common—"We pray Thee to bless Thy Word wherever it has been fully and faithfully preached." Amen! of course to this; but we may also surely pray God to bless His Word even where it has been only partially and unfaithfully preached ; for of this we may be quite sure that wherever that Word has been at all—though diluted, veiled, becloudedthere is still in it a power and a glory that may, and often do effect Divine purposes in spite of human hindrances. A little light is better than no light at all. Wherever there's a single piece, or fragment, or the merest ravelling, from the great fabric of Truth, let us pray that even it may prove power of God unto salvation.” But as for the preacher himself who handles the word of God deceitfully, good indeed were it for that man, except he repent, if he had not been born.
One thought occurs to us in conclusion. Underlying all this sinful agency ;-ambition, cruelty, lust, ignorance, malice, wickedness of every sort and kind, there is a dark spiritual power—the power of the Devil and his angels-and this, together with the human means, is bent and welded by the Almighty for the accomplishment of His glorious purposes. There is, properly, no triumph for evil-no, not for an hour!
Satan in afflicting Job works out the Heavenly discipline. Paul's thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him, is, by a Divine purpose, to answer a great spiritual end :- “lest he should be exalted above measure so that the Devil becomes positively, in this sense, a of grace !” Satan is an usher in the great school of the