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brought to pass only in the way of their rebelling as they do? Does not this, my hearers, look like very plausible, and fair reasoning? The olj ctor here takes hold of plain scripture statements ; first, that some men are saved, because it is the will of God they should be ; and secondly, that some are hardened in sin, and consequently perish, and this, because it is the will of God it should be so ; and then argues from them against the justice of God in the punishment of the wicked. If such be the divine will, the event happens according to it, and it is not resisted ; why doth he yet find fault? What an inconsistent and absurd being do such scriptures, as the foregoing, make the Almighty to be! Nay but, О man, who art thou, that reasonest after this sort? that presumest against a right, an eternal prerogative, of the Deity to effect his own purposes in the ungodiy, and at the same time hold them guilty? This is none other than replying against God. It is like denying, that the potter has power over the clay of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another un. to dishonour. This appears to be an exact literal account of that sin of replying against God, which the apostle execrates and condemns with so much zeal in our text. To put any other construction upon the apostle's language and manner of handling the controversy, must effectually do away the whole, and leave him acting over a farce, with the christians at Rome, as frivolous and unmean
ing, as was ever perforined at an opera, or play-house. If Paul was a sober man when he wrote the things, at which we have been looking, no doubt his object was to expose the sophistry and wickedness of those, who object against the sovereignty of God, in appointing some to wrath, and others to ob. tain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, for his own glory, that it makes him a tyrant and an unreasonable being. To carry his point against such objectors, the apostle does not answer them as if they were indebted to a misunderstanding of the scriptures for the principle which gave them such offence. . If he had had only to rectify their understandings, in order to set them right, he would certainly have treated the case differently from what he did. He would have told thein, that their drawing a conclusion so dishonourable to God was not to be attributed to any unfriendliness to the truth itself; but solely to a misapprehension of what is the real meaning of the scriptures. This must be a very pleasant and satisfactory method of terminating a dissention which is wholly grounded upon ignorance or mis. take. But the apostle takes a different course to bring the matter to a crisis.
He assumes the countenance and airs of stern rebuke, and condemns the rashness of undertaking to dictate to Heaven, and to prescribe rules to infinite wisdom and uprightness. The truth is before you in clear view ; but be.' cause you love it not, you would fain bring
it into reproach. “Who art thou that re
. pliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ?" Objecting against the truth, may be considered as replying against God; and the particular truth questioned, or calumniated, according to the apostle in our text, is that exercise of God's moral govern . ment, in which he subordinates all creatures to himself, making them subvervient to his will, in all their actions, sufferings, and enjoyments, without absolving any from moral obligation and accountability. Does not this appear to be the idea, which the apostle
, would support, and which his antagonist labours to discredit and overthrow? And is not this the idea, all important if just, which many discourses have already been delivered to you to illustrate and impress, as holding pre-eminence and taking the lead among the vast multitude of most precious truths, which are detailed in the gospel ? If it be so, indeed, that we are in unison with the apostle Paul in the sentiments, which we have been endeavouring to collect from him and other inspired writers, upon the subject of the character and government of God, it will be of no small use for strength and encouragement to have his skill and weapons for our own use in so important a cause, to defend it against the onset of objectors. On the other hand, how much does it behove us to be cautious, never to take up and adopt, for our own, such objections, as have
already been encountered by the spirit of truth, and condemned as impious, as a reply against God. Where there are manifest difficulties atter ding a sentiment alledged to be scriptural, it implies no dishonour to God nor disrespect to the authority of his word, to notice them and regard them as such ; but to take the stand, and act the part, of determined opposers to any thing, which has countenarice from the holy oracles, is just as hazardous, as it is to enlist against him, who is followed by all the armies of heaven. But while entering a caution against a cavilling spirit, or a forwardness to object against what is deduced from the scriptures, I desire to be understood not to demand the assent of any one to what I may recommend and urge, merely upon the consideration, that I esteem it authorised by the word of God ; neither would I flatter my. self, that it is less dangerous, or less criminal, to misinterpret the scriptures, and inculcate what is subversive of its real import, than it is to object against genuine bible truth. There should be, at least, as much care taken to advocate a scheme of just sentiments, as to receive such when they are presented to view. The importance of fidelity, on either hand, deserves to be seri. ously considered. The subject, which has, for some time, been under our examination, is important enough, without doubt, to mer. it a thorough discussion. It has called our attention to the wide extent, the universali.
ty, of God's kingdom. And we have, I think, gathered from the scriptures, that God governs for himself, and uses all creatures as instruments of his glory; and that nothing is useless or unprofitable, in this respect. All are under God's efficient direction, and will be conducive to his glory. Even angels, men and devils are universally, as to their being and exercises, the workmanship of his hand, and as such will be serviceable to the grand result, which is the declaration of his glory, who hath made all things for himself. This scheme of doctrine is known to have its opposers.
Objection is made against so much originality in God, and so little in the creature. I have not proposed to take under consideration every minute objection, which has been started against our doctrine, by those who have raised up against it a methodical and systematical opposition ; but to review those only which are the most specious, and the most apt to be relied on, in the ordinary rotine of disputation. The objection, that it is inconsistent with moral agency, has been attended to. A few others will now be brought into view. And should they appear not to be unanswerable, may we all be enabled to discard them, as fallacious props, applied to a frail and jointless building ; but especially to avoid the spirit which has dictated them, lest haply we should be found to reply against God.
To the doctrine of man's agency, as wholly dependent, it has been objected, that this