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in order to promote their own private, selfish happiness, wrong their own souls, and expose themselves to endless ruin. 4. If christians are willing to live and to die unto the Lord, in the manner that has been represented, then the christian's life is an exemplary life. It is just such a life as rational and dependent creatures ought to live in this present probationary state. So far as christians walk worthy of their high and holy vocation, they exhibit an example that all men ought to follow, and know that they ought to follow. They know, that they are all the creatures of God, who has made them for himself, who has sent his Son to redeem them from deserved and endless destruction, and who has continually loaded them with his benefits. And they know that these things bind them to the love and service of God, and forbid them to live to themselves. They know, therefore, that christians who appear to live to God, and are willing to die to God, set them an example which they ought to approve and to follow, and which continually condemns them for living to themselves. The apostle exhorts men to follow the example of departed christians. “Be ye followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” But it is no less proper for those who are living to themselves, to reform, and follow living christians, who appear willing both to live and to die unto the Lord. Those who live with living christians will have much to answer for, if they do not follow their truly christian examle. 5. If christians are willing to live and to die unto the Lord, then their death, though a gain to them, is a loss to the world. They are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and their departure out of it tends to increase moral darkness and corruption among men. They can hardly be spared in any condition or stage of life. The world need both their exertions and examples, and may suffer much by the loss of them, though in some cases they may view their removal as a favor. The death of any real christian in any place is a melancholy event, and ought to be lamented; not only by near relatives and friends, but by all who know that the godly are the excellent of the earth, and the instruments which God employs to promote his great and gracious designs. Many seem to be willing that the righteous should be taken away, if they are only willing to die to the Lord; not considering that they may be taken away from the evil to come, when they may most sensibly feel the need of their presence and assistance. 6. If real christians are willing to live and to die unto the Lord, then they are willing to bury their christian friends who die to the Lord, whenever they are called to the trial. Those, and those only, who are willing to bury themselves, are willing to bury their friends, who die in the Lord. They are willing to go where their christian friends are gone. They believe that they are gone to heaven, and they are willing to follow whenever they are called to follow them. Those who are not willing to die to the Lord choose to stay behind and lament their death, and not to go where they are supposed to be. When Christ told his disciples of the death of Lazarus, “Then said Thomas unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go that we may die with him.” This was the natural impulse of a christian's heart towards a dying christian. And this is still the natural impulse of a christian heart towards a dying christian friend. All christians must be willing that their fellow christians should go, where they are willing and desirous to go themselves. But none can be willing that their friends should go where they dread to go themselves. Christians feel a submission under the bereavement of christian friends, that sinners never do nor can feel.
This subject now calls upon all to inquire whether they are real christians. Have they ever been willing to live to God, and to be his dutiful servants? A childknows whether he has been dutiful to his parents. A servant knows whether he has been faithful to his master. Why then cannot a creature know whether he has been dutiful to his Creator Have you then been dutiful to your Creator Have you been willing to be his creature, and to live in obedience to his commands, and in submission to his government 2 Have you been willing to die to him 2 You have been sick; how have you felt 2 You have been bereaved of christian friends; how have you felt 7 This question it concerns all to answer; but especially the present mourners. They are numerous, and death has come very near to some of you. God is now trying your hearts, and gives you peculiar opportunities to know whether they are right or wrong in his sight. This is next to your last trial, when you must die to yourselves, or to God. Are you prepared for that trial? You are, if prepared for the present trial; but not otherwise. Your case is critical; your duty imperious. Be still, and know that you are the creatures of God, and be willing to be so.
THY way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. — PsALM lxxvii. 19.
The author of this psalm describes his troubles, and the conflicts of his mind under them. He represents his distress to be so great, that he could neither sleep nor speak. At first, he murmured and repined, and called the kindness and compassion of God in question. But he soon checked himself for it, and said: “This is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” And when he reflected upon the marvellous goodness o God in leading his people through the Red sea, by the hand of Moses and Aaron, he was convinced of the absurdity and impiety of censuring the ways of providence, which are incomprehensible by mankind in this dark and imperfect state. This he acknowledges before God in the strongest terms. “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.” The figure here is taken from a ship in the sea, whose path cannot be traced by any marks it leaves behind. So God is unsearchable in the ways of his providence, and the reasons of his conduct cannot be discovered by any human eye.
The truth which now falls under our consideration is this: That God is incomprehensible in the ways of his providence. I shall,
I. Show that God does exercise a universal providence over the world. And,
II. That he is incomprehensible in the exercise of his universal providence.
I. I am to show that God does exercise a universal providence over the world. By the providence of God, we are to understand his preserving and governing all things; or, as we have always been taught, “it is his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.” It was impossible for God in creating the world, to give it an independent existence or the power of self-preservation. Independence is an incommunicable attribute of the Deity, which he cannot bestow upon any created object. Though he can bring both rational and irrational objects into existence out of nothing, yet he cannot give them power to support their own existence, independently of his almighty supporting hand. For it requires the omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God, as much to preserve the world in existence, as to give it existence at first. The Preserver of the world must know all things that are made; must be present with all things that are made, and uphold all things that are made; and therefore, none but the ever-present, all-wise, and powerful Creator can be the constant Preserver of the world. We have precisely the same evidence from the light of nature that God preserves, as that he made the world. God knew, when he created the world, that he could not put it out of his own hands a single moment, without destroying it; for he knew that he had hung the earth upon nothing but his own almighty, supporting hand. God knew when he created all things, that not one thing would exist any longer than he exerted his omnipotence to preserve its existence; and that if he designed that any part of his rational or irrational creation should exist for ever, he must constantly and eternally exert his omniscient eye and almighty arm for their preservation. To human appearance, the work of preserving the world is a vastly greater work than the work of creation; for God finished the work of creation in six days, but he will not finish the work of preservation to all eternity. It was not necessary that God should create the world; but it is absolutely necessary that he should preserve it for ever, in order to answer the ultimate end of its existence. And to answer the same end, it is no less necessary that God should exercise a universal government over the world he has created, and constantly preserves. No material object can move, and no living creature can act, without the constant and controlling agency of him who made and preserves the world. God can no more give independent motion or independent activity to his creatures, than he could give independent existence to his creatures. They must all necessarily live and move, as well as have their being in him. The light of nature affords us the same evidence that God preserves and governs all things, as that he has made all things. But there are many who acknowledge that God made the world, and does constantly and universally preserve it, that yet deny that his governing providence is universal. Not only deists, but even christians, deny the universality of divine providence. They suppose that God governs the more important objects in the natural world, and the more important events in the moral world, but takes no care of less important objects and events, which they deem unworthy of his care and attention. This is a palpable absurdity; for it is impossible to conceive that God should oversee and govern the whole world, and not oversee and govern all its parts. And if we look into the Bible, we find that God is there represented as causing the regular succession of day and night, winter and summer, seedtime and harvest; as causing the winds to blow, and the rain to fall; as causing health and sickness, life and death, prosperity and adversity; as causing joy and sorrow, moral good and moral evil; as taking care of the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; as governing the hearts and directing the steps of every individual of mankind; and as protecting David from the paw of the lion and the bear, and the javelin of Saul; F." Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the fiery urnace; Daniel in the lions' den; and Jonah in the whale's belly. The scripture represents God as preserving and o: erning every creature and every object, whether rational or irrational, whether great or small, and whether good or evil, in every part of his extensive dominions. The preserving and governing providence of God extends to every thing that he has created. A sparrow falls not to the ground without his notice and direction, and the hairs of our heads are all numbered. God suffers nothing to take place, either in the natural or moral world, by negligence or permission. His providence is nothing less than his wise and powerful governing all his creatures and all their actions. I now proceed to show, II. That God is incomprehensible in the exercise of his universal providence. This will appear from various considerations. And, 1. From express declarations of scripture. The text declares that his way is in the sea, his path in the mighty waters, and his footsteps are not known. Zophar demands, “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection ? It is as high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know?” Elihu puts this solemn question to Job, “Why dost thou strive against him 2