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display of God's glory, by his pouring out his wrath on the sinner, and punishing him for it. We have an instance of this in Pharaoh. One great and good end answered by his sin was by God's taking occasion thereby to show his power, and cause his name to be declared throughout all the earth, by pouring out his wrath on Pharaoh for his sin; and, there fore, if Pharaoh had not deserved this wrath for his sin, this end could not have been answered by it. So we are told that the great good that is answered by sinners' obstinacy and final impenitence is by God's showing his wrath, and making his power known, in punishing them eternally for their wickedness. "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and make his power known." (Rom. ix. 22.) If sin was not infinitely criminal, and did not render those guilty of it infinitely ill deserving, it would not fit them for that destruction in which God shows his wrath, and makes his power known.
Surely, all will see how, in this case, the Scripture unites the ill desert of the sinner and his destruction for sin with the good end answered by it;-unites them, I say, so that they cannot be separated;-so that to say sin's answering a good end renders it excusable and harmless is expressly, in words, to separate what God has joined together-yea, things which are, in their own nature, inseparably united, so as necessarily to imply each other. If God's glorifying himself by punish ing sin renders sin harmless, and not deserving of punishment, then here is the greatest contradiction; for if sin deserves no punishment, God cannot glorify himself in punishing it: so that, according to this, by the good end's being answered, it is, at the same time, by its being answered, absolutely defeated, and not answered.
Thus full of contradiction and absurdity is such a notion as this, viz., that if sin is the occasion of good, it deserves no punishment; and it is directly contrary to those Scriptures which represent the ill desert of sin as essential, in order to answer the good end it does, and teach that sin becomes the occasion of good, in many instances, by its rendering men the proper subjects of divine wrath, which it could not do if its being the occasion of good rendered it harmless, and men excusable for committing it.
But, though the Scripture is thus clear and express in this matter, yet there may be some who do not see into the reason of it; they cannot see why sin's being the occasion of so much good does not represent it as harmless, and afford en couragement to sin, that those good ends may be answered. I shall, therefore,
II. Give the reasons of it, and show why it is so, still direct
ing your eye to the Holy Scripture as our help and guide. And here I ask your attention to the following particulars:
1. The good ends answered by sin is no excuse for it, nor does in the least extenuate its guilt, because sin is still the same in its own nature as if it answered no good end. Sin, as it consists in contradiction to truth and reason and the law of God, is, in its own nature, most unreasonable, ugly, and hateful, and, therefore, criminal and inexcusable; and the consequences of it, whether good or bad, alter not the nature of it. Though sin be the occasion of never so much good, yet it is, in its own nature, a contradiction to truth and reason, and, therefore, is, in itself, odious, vile, and criminal. Sin is, therefore, considered in its own nature as consisting in the unreasonable disposition, views, and aims of the sinner, infinitely hateful to God, and he is at an infinite distance from feeling any temptation or encouragement to it; and, therefore, all the good God brings out of sin does not in the least abate his hatred of it, or make him look upon it a whit the less criminal, and, consequently, does not at all abate his anger at the sinner, and disposition to punish for sin. And if men looked upon things in this light, -as they do, so far as they see the truth, and had an answerable disposition of mind, they would not hate sin the less because of the good that it is the occasion of, or imagine themselves at all the more excusable therefor on this account. Moreover,
2. It is not owing to any good tendency in sin, in itself considered, that it becomes the occasion of good. As sin's being made the occasion of good does not change the nature of it, so neither does it alter its natural tendency. The natural tendency of sin is to the greatest evil; it is big with infinite mischief. Sin aims and tends to dishonor God, and dethrone him to fill the world with the utmost disorder, confusion, and misery, yea, even to spoil and destroy the universe, so as to make the whole, both Creator and creatures, infinitely worse than nothing. Sin tends to make God infinitely dishonorable, and infinitely miserable, and would actually do so, if God was not able to prevent it. And it tends to make the creature eternally miserable; and its tendency to this is so great and strong, that this would be the infallible consequence if God did not interpose and prevent.
Now God's overruling this which tends to so much evil, which has an unalterable and almost infinite tendency to infinite evil, does not make this tendency to evil a whit more excusable, or the less vile and mischievous, as it is in itself; and, therefore, in no degree removes the guilt and ill desert of it. No thanks to sin that any good comes of it; this is no 44
argument in its favor, as it is not owing to its harmlessness or good tendency in itself, but to the overruling hand of God, who, by his infinite wisdom and unconquerable power, turns that to good which in itself tends only to evil, and is full of deadly poison.
If the conduct of a man towards his neighbor has a most direct tendency in itself to hurt and undo him, though the mischief is prevented by the overruling providence of God, or the kind interposition of some wise and able friend, — yea, is, by such interposition, turned into the greatest good to him,this does not render such conduct in any degree the more harmless or excusable, or in the least lessen the guilt and ill desert of it. This truth I suppose every one discerns who is come to the years of discretion, it being a plain dictate of common sense; and I see no difficulty in applying it to the case before us. If the person's conduct towards his neighbor, so full of mischief, and tending directly to his ruin, looks not the better in itself, and is not in the least more excusable for its being overruled to the good of his neighbor, then, surely, the good which God brings out of sin affords no excuse for sin, which is, in its own nature and tendency, infinitely mischievous, and full of deadly evil. I proceed to observe,
3. As sin, in its own nature and tendency, is as odious, vile, and mischievous as if no good came of it, so the disposition, aim, and end of the sinner is as hateful and vile, as contrary to God and all good, as if no good came of the sin he commits.
As sin, in its own nature, tends to mischief, so the sinner, who is the author of it, aims at that which is unreasonable, mischievous, and destructive. If the sinner could have his will, none of the good which God brings out of sin would follow, but all the mischief imaginable. St. Paul tells us, "The carnal mind is enmity against God." (Rom. viii. 7.) The disposition of the sinner, the whole bent of his mind, is in opposition to God and his glory, and all the good that God is seeking. Now the disposition and aim of the sinner is not the better because God prevents the mischief sought taking place, and turns all into good; but the sinner's disposition and end in what he does is as vile, inexcusable, and deserving of God's wrath, as if no good had followed.
Thus, Joseph's brethren thought evil against their brother, and were disposed to injure him. They cared not for his welfare, but aimed to put him into a state of servitude and misery, and thus prevent his dreams coming to pass. Therefore, their disposition and aim in what they did was most unreasonable, and contrary to God's design, and so to all that good
which their selling him was the means of. And now, who can have a better thought of the conduct of Joseph's brethren, or esteem their crime in selling him at all the less because of the good which God brought out of it, so contrary to their intentions?
We are not wont, in the least, to excuse men for their bad designs, and their attempts to do mischief, because they are not able to bring their designs to pass, and the mischief they aim at and attempt to do, does not actually follow. Yea, if their disposition and endeavor to do mischief is the occasion of good, this does not excuse them in our view.
One Verenus gave his neighbor a dose of poison, with an intent to take away his life, and thought he had effected what he aimed at; but, contrary to his expectation and desire, by means of the skilful application of an able physician, the poisonous dose did him no hurt, but, on the contrary, became the means of removing a dangerous disease he labored under, and so of lengthening out his life many years. But no thanks to Verenus for all this. Not one was found who excused him on the account of the good his neighbor had received. No; the whole neighborhood cried out of him as a guilty, murderous wretch. And, verily, in this they spoke the common sense of all mankind; for common sense teaches mankind, in judging how far any one is criminal, not to determine this so much by what is the consequence of what he has done, but by the deed itself which he has done, and his aim and design therein."
4. Though every sin is made the occasion of great good, yet this affords not the least encouragement to sin; because all do not share in this good, and no one that lives in allowed sin has any evidence that it will be the occasion of good to him, but has reason greatly to fear the contrary.
There are multitudes to whom sin is never the occasion of any good, but it proves to them an infinite evil, even their eternal undoing. They are not the better for all the good that God brings out of sin. They have no benefit of the good which their own sins are the occasion of; but sin proves to
And if sin is, in its own nature, as ugly and hateful, and in its own natural tendency as pernicious and destructive to the universe, and the disposition of the sinner is as vile and criminal, as contrary to God and all good as if no good came of it, then there is as much reason why it should be hated, detested, and abhorred; why we should be ashamed of it, humbled for it, and renounce it forever, as if God did not overrule it for good. And in this godly sorrow essentially consists. Let the Christian consult his own heart, and he will doubtless find that it is in this view of sin he repents, and lies in the dust before God.
Therefore, whatever good comes of sin, it tends not in the least to prevent godly sorrow, as some have imagined.
them (what it is in itself, and in its natural tendency) infinitely mischievous and destructive.
Thus it was to Pharaoh. His wickedness was the occasion of great good, but he had none of the benefit of it. His sin was as pernicious and destructive to him as if it had answered no good end at all. This was the occasion of his dreadful overthrow, and, no doubt, of his eternal perdition. This was the case with Judas. He shared in none of the good his sin was the occasion of, but perished in his wickedness. And this is true of every finally impenitent sinner. They see not when good comes, and have no part or lot in this matter; but by their sin become vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
And no one that allows himself in sin has any evidence that this will not be his case. Such have no reason to determine but that every sin they commit will cost them infinitely dear, as they may suffer God's wrath for it to all eternity; and this they have all reason to fear and expect, as the way of allowed sin is the way to destruction, as really so as if sin never answered any good end; yea, they know not but the next sin they commit will be their eternal undoing, as it may provoke God to swear in his wrath that they shall never enter into his rest—to give them up to inevitable ruin.
Seeing, then, the way of sin is the way to destruction, and none that allow themselves in sin have any evidence, or any reason to expect, that sin will turn to their good, but have the greatest reason to fear and expect the contrary, they have no encouragement to sin because God does overrule all sin so as to make it the occasion of good; for what is this to them, so long as, so far as appears, they are like to have no part nor lot in it? Yea,
5. They are in the utmost danger of having sin become an unspeakably greater evil to them than if God had not made it the occasion of so much good.
What God has done to bring good out of the evil of sin, makes sin vastly more dreadful to those that continue in it than it would have been had not God done this. Their having the offers of salvation by Christ in consequence of this, will render their continuance in sin much more dreadful than otherwise it would be. And the good that sin is the occasion of, by being a means of God's glory and the advancement of the happiness of the blessed, will greatly aggravate their misery who continue in sin, and make it of vastly more awful consequence to them than if none of this good had been brought out of sin.
This is evident; for the more God is glorified, the more his perfections are discovered to intelligences, the more miserable they must be who are doomed to the eternal hatred and anger