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actions of men, as to render it even impossi. ble for God to prevent them. The freedom of moral exercises, in creatures, he seems to suppose, raises them completely above all determining influence from the Deity; so that the government of God, over intelligent subjects, degenerates to a level with that government, which one man exercises over others. Instead, therefore, of considering their agency as a necessary part of providence, as much so as any event that transpires ;, he seems to view it as something a. side from what God is bringing to pass, in fulfilment of his eternal counsels, which may help or hinder, as the case shall happen to be circumstanced.* He, therefore, speaks of God's having power “to restrain them from the execution of those purposes which would thwart the designs of his providence.” How? Not by disposing them to things, which are within the compass of his determinations and counsels, as if they were in his hands as clay in the hands of the potter; but “either by disabling them froin bringing their de. signs to pass, or by withdrawing the subject or the object of them, or by such dispensations as he sees will turn the bent of their hearts another way.” Such a specimen of divine government, as is here described, will bear a comparison with the measures of an earthly potentate, as the following: With. in the limits of a certain kingdom, but not belonging to it, a certain lawless, petty, sove. reign has collected together a number of subjects for
* Whitby's Discourses, p. 362.
purposes of depredation and mischief.
Their object is to subsist themselves on the revenues of the king, by whose territory they are surrounded. It now becomes a query with the lawful sovereign of the country how he shall remedy the evil he suffers from the neighbourhood of this ban. ditti. He has no power over their hearts to make them honest and upright, nor to allure them into his service, and render them loyal and obedient subjects to his own government ; but among a great number of very similar methods, he thinks of three, ei. ther of which is practicable, and will most certainly redeem his affairs from any further hazard from them. He can either seize the whole of them, and confine them in irons, and, in this way, disable them from preying upon the wealth of his kingdonı ; or he can cease to draw any revenues from his people, and this would be withdrawing the object of their iniquity and violence ; or he might procure them an advantageous settlement at some great distance, an offer of which would turn the bent of their hearts another way. So it turns out, according to the writer above mentioned, that God has as good a knack ať governing moral subjects, as a person of some authority has at governing his fellow-creatures. But instead of bringing man into the great scheme of providence, as an im.
, portant link in the mysterious chain, and rendering him wholly subordinate to God
as a dependent instrument for carrying for. ward and accomplishing the views of infinite benevolence, it, in effect, shuts him out, and stations him off at a distance, where he may be occasionally called to, or driven from, the grandcommunity ofGod's providential works. Though this does not much tend to dimin. ish him in his own esteem, nor represent him as of little importance to himself ; yet as a creature of God, wholly at his disposal, moved and regulated by his power to the end that nothing may be wanting in the great series of events, it serves greatly to lessen his value. If Deity has not the same power to turn the hearts of men, as he has to turn the rivers of water, and that too in perfect consistency with their retaining rank as moral beings, and deserving praise, on the one hand, or dispraise, on the other; their use in the systein must be considered as at an end. God has not made men to be treated by him, as they treat one another. Beings,equal in nature and rank, cannot justly claim such pre-eminence, one above another, as that any individual should claim a right to subordinate his neighbour to his own will. But, undoubtedly, God has this right over all creatures ; and he can have made none, only with a view to assert this right and carry it into effect. The difference between intelligent creatures and others is not in this, that the latter are for instruments in the work of providence, as water was in the destruction of the old world, and fire in the perdition of Sodoin,
&c. and the former not; but in this, that one is used to fulfil divine purposes in a way of voluntary agency, or an agency, which is moral, and the other not. Men, who act with moral freedom, are as much in the chain of providence, subserving the purposes of the most High, as the stars, which, in their courses, fought against Sisera. Though intelligence renders man a nobler instrument for the work of God, than creatures, which are without this high endowment; yet it does not elevate him above the condition of a mere instrument. And if this be his proper place and destination, we see how necessary it must be, that the power of God be such, as to con. tinue him in it, and to render him, in all respects, fit for it. If our first parents are to be instruments for introducing and propagating evil in our world, and Christ, in human nature, of eradicating it; if Moses is to be an instrument of redeeming Israel from slavery, and Pharaoh of making known the power of God in the destruction of a haughty oppressor ; if David is to be an instrument of prosperity to the church, and Manasseh and others of reducing it low, even to the brink of destruction ; if Cyrus is to be an instrument of the restoration of the Jews from Babylon, and Joshua of re-establishing them in their own land; if John Baptist is to be an instrument of introducing the Son of God incarnate to his public ministrations, and Judas of bringing him to the cross; if Peter and his brother disciples are to be instruments of establishing the fact of the resurrection, and Paul of converting to christianity inany of the heathen world; God must be able to fit and apply each one to the part allotted him. Without this power, he must be unfit for government, and unfit for the confidence of creatures.
Hence we may learn, by way of conclu. sion, how little interest any person can have to desire that the power of God may be di- . minished; or that it should be less than infinite. If his fear declaim to him against the omnipotence of God, his hopes will plead in its favour. If the sinner be in terrors, lest an almighty arm should be raised against him, and press him down to endless perdition; would he not, on the other hand, sicken and grow pale with despair, if an equal power could not be called forth to raise him to immortal honour and enjoyment. If God liad not power to make one miserable, he could liave no power to make him happy. And if his power be under the direction of infinite rectitude, who can have any just cause of alarm, or wish that it might be retrenched ? Who will not rather be satisfied and delighted with the consideration, that such a power does exist; and that no portion of the universe can be exempt from its in- . fluence? “ Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty : for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine ; thine is the