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THE WISDOM OF GOD
PERMISSION OF SIN.
GENESIS L. 20. ......Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto
good...... Jacob being dead and buried, and Joseph still governor over all the land of Egypt, his guilty brethren began to be afraid that Joseph, in whose power they now were, and at whose mercy they now lay, would requite them evil for the inhuman, barbarous deed they had formerly committed, in selling him for a slave, notwithstanding all his cries and tears, and the anguish of his soul. Wherefore, having first sent messengers to him, to pacify him, and beg his
pardon, they venture at last into his presence, and fall down before his face, and resign to his mercy, saying, “ Behold, we be thy servants”-i. e. We have nothing to say for ourselves; we are verily guilty ; we are in thy power; we surrender ourselves to thy disposal : Upon which, Joseph said unto them, "Fear not”
ħarm from me ; any
“ for I am in the place of God,” the righteous judge of the world, to whom vengeance belongs, and with whom you had need make your peace! 'Tis true, indeed, you acted a barbarous and cruel part : “ Ye thought evil against me ; but God," who had the ordering of the whole affair,
meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” And while I behold
the wisdom and goodness of God, so conspicuous in this dispensation, I have no disposition to revenge the injury you did me : Therefore, fear not ; for, instead of requiting you the evil you are sensible you de. serve, for your ill treatment of me, I will rather, in imitation of God, who hath been so kind to me in all my distresses, treat you with all goodness : “ I will nourish you and your little ones. Thus he comforted them, and spake kindly to them.”
At the same time Joseph viewed the conduct of his brethren, and considered their temper and designs, and the heinousness of their crime, he also beheld the hand of God, which he as plainly saw in the whole af. fair, permitting and over-ruling his brethren's sin, to answer good and noble ends : And this indisposed him to any angry.resentments, and framed his soulonly to gratitude to God, and love and kindness to his brethren. His seeing the hand of God in it, or, to use his own language, his seeing that “ God meant” he should be sold, and that it was God who sent him thither,” together with the happy experience he had of the wisdom and goodness of God in the affair, not only prepared him to forgive his brethren, but to treat them with all possible tenderness and fraternal goodness: So that he was not only satisfied in the wisdom of God in the permission of that sin, but was there. by better prepared to do his duty.
DOCTRINE.--"A sight of the wisdom of God in the permission of sin, is very useful to promote holiness of heart and life: It has a great tendency to make us feel right, and behave well.”
Thus it was with Joseph, as we have seen. And thus it was with Job, who, while the Sabeans wickedly robbed him, eyed the hand of God, and said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, and bles. sed be the name of the Lord."*
And thus it was
with David, while Shimei wickedly abused him, going along on the hill over against him, as he was fleeing out of Jerusalem, from the hands of Absalom, his son, and cursed him as he went, saying, “Come out, come out, thou bloody man.”—Let him curse,' says David, “ for the Lord hath biduen him.”+ "I justly deserve it at the hands of the majesty of heaven, against whom I have grievously sinned. A bloody man indeed. I am -O, Uriah! Uriah !-I shall never forget the blood of the valiant Uriah !
BUT it is needless to multiply instances. For nothing is plainer than that it must tend to bring us to a right temper of mind, in every circumstance of life, to view infinite wisdom, as ordering all things which concern us, in the wisest and best manner. Nor could any thought be more shocking to a pious mind, than to conceive the DEITY as unconcerned in human affairs....the devil ruling in the children of disobedience without controul....and all things jumbling along in this wicked world, without the least prospect of any good end ever to be answered. But if all things, good and bad, are under the government of infinite wisdom, this affords a sure prospect of a happy issue. And under such a wise and perfect gov., ernment, we have the greatest inducement to go on cheerfully in the ways of our duty; having always an implicit faith in the supreme Ruler of the universe.-Wherefore, the truth of the doctrine being thus plain and evident, I shall only attempt to shew, 1. What we are to understand by God's permitting
1. What are we to understand by God's permitting sin ?
* 2 Samuel XVI.
1. Not that he loves sin, or that there is any thing in the nature of sin that he approves of; for it is the abominable thing which his soul hateth. When he viewed the temper, conduct, and design of Joseph's brethren, they each of them appeared perfectly odious in his eyes : Their envy and malice he abhorred..... their cruel and barbarous deed he detested.... their de. sign intimated in that saying, " And then shall we see what will become of his dreams," * he perfectly disapproved.
2. Much less are we to imagine that God, in permitting sin, deprives the sinner of the freedom of his will
. Joseph's brethren felt themselves at liberty ; and, in the whole affair, acted according to their own inclinations-just as they pleased.
3. God's permitting sin consists merely in not hin. : dering of it. He saw that Joseph's brethren, consid. ering their temper, and how they had their brother out in the field, and how that the Ishmaelitish merchants would soon come by, &c. &c. would certainly sell him, unless he interposed to hinder it. And he could have hindered their selling as easily as he hindered their murdering him. But he did not. He let them take their course.
4. And yet it is self-evident, God never permits sin in the character of an unconcerned spectator, as not caring how affairs go; but as having weighed all circumstances and consequences. Therefore,
5. God never permits sin, but only then, when, on the whole, all things considered, he judges it best not to hinder it. And, therefore,
6. At whatever time God forbears to interpose to hinder the commission of any act of sin, he is not on ly justifiable in his conduct, but even commendable and praise-worthy ; because he has chosen to act in the wisest and best manner.-But this leads me
• Genesis XXXVII. 20."