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forbids sin by natural, verbal, or written laws. And, Secondly, He keeps up our powers of body and soul; enduing us with liberty, whereby we may abstain, like moral agents, from the commission of sin; furnishing us besides with a variety of motives and helps to resist every temptation to sin: A great variety this, which includes all God's threatenings and promises;—all his exhortations and warnings ;-all the checks of our consciences, and the strivings of the Holy Spirit ;—all the counsels of good men and the exemplary punishments of the wicked, together with the tears and blood of Christ, and the other peculiar means of grace, which God has appointed to keep Christians from sin, and to strengthen them in the performance of their duty.
2. When sin is committed in the intention, God frequently prevents the outward commission, or the full completion of it, by peculiar interpositions of his Providence. Thus he hindered the men of Sodom from injuring Lot, by striking them with blindness :-He hindered Pharaoh from enslaving the Israelites, by drowning him in the Red Sea :-He hindered Balaam from cursing Israel, by putting a bridle in his mouth : -He hindered Jeroboam from hurting the prophet who came out of Judah, by drying up his royal hand, when he stretched it forth, saying, 'Lay hold on him:' -He hindered Herod from destroying the holy child Jesus, by warning Joseph to flee into Egypt, &c. &c. The Scriptures, and the history of the world, are full of accounts of the ordinary and extraordinary interpositions of Divine Providence, respecting the detection of intended mischief, and the preservation of persons and states whom the wicked determined to destroy: And, to go no farther than England, the providential discovery of the Gunpowder Plot is as remarkable an instance as any, that God keeps a watchful eye upon the counsels of men, and confounds their devices whenever he pleases.
3. During the commission of sin, God's Providence is engaged in marking it, in setting bounds to it, or in over-ruling it in a manner quite contrary to the expec
tation of sinners.-When Joseph's brethren contrived the getting money by selling him into Egypt, God con. trived the preservation of Jacob's household. Thus, when Haman contrived a gallows to hang Mordecai thereon, the Lord so over-ruled this cruel design, that Haman was hung on that very gallows. Thus, when Satan wanted to destroy Job, God set bounds to his rage, and bid the fierce accuser spare the good man's life. That envious fiend did his worst to make the patient saint curse God to his face; but the Lord so over-ruled his malice, that it worked for good to Job. For when Job's patience had had its perfect work, all his misfortunes ended in double prosperity, and all his tempestuous tossings raised him to a higher degree of perfection: For, the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust to the Day of Judgment.' (2 Pet. ii. 9.)-Thus, again, to preserve the seed of the righteous, God formerly kept 100 prophets, and 7000 true Israelites, from the cruelty of Jezebel; and, for the sake of the sincere Christians, in Judea, he shortened the great tribulation spoken of Matt. xxiv. 22. When the ungodly are most busy in sinning, God's providence is most employed in counterworking their sin, in putting bounds to their desperate designs, and in making a way for the godly to escape out of temptation, that they may be able to bear it: For the rod of the ungodly cometh not [with its full force] into the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put forth their hand unto iniquity,' through such powerful and lasting temptations, as would make it impossible for them to stand firm in the way of duty. (Ps. cxxv. 3.)
4. When sin is actually committed, the Providence of God, in conjunction with his Mercy and Justice, is employed, either in using means to bring sinners to repentance, confession, and pardon, or in inflicting upon them such punishments as seem most proper to Divine Wisdom. To be convinced of it, read the history of man's redemption by Jesus Christ. Mark the various steps by which Providence brings the guilty to conviction, the penitent to pardon, the finally-impenitent to
destruction, and all to some degree of punishment. By what an amazing train of providential dispensations were Joseph's brethren, for instance, brought to remember, lament, and smart for their cruel behaviour' to him! And how did God, by various afflictions, bring his rebellious people to consider their ways, and to humble themselves before him in the land of their cap tivity! What an amazing work had Divine Providence in checking, and punishing the sin of Pharaoh in Egypt; -that of the Israelites in the wilderness ;-that of David and his house in Jerusalem-and that of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar in Babylon!
Evangelically and providentially opening the way for the return of sinners, and repaying obdurate offenders to their face, make one half of God's work, as he is the gracious and righteous governor of men. We cannot doubt it, if we take notice of the innumerable means, by which conversions and punishments are brought about. To touch only upon punishments : Some extend to the sea, others to the land :-Some spread over particular districts, others over whole kingdoms :-Some affect a whole family, and others a whole community :-Some affect the soul, and others the body -Some fall only upon one limb, or one of the senses, others upon the whole animal frame, and all the senses :-Some affect our well-being, others our being itself:-Some are confined to this world, and others extend to a future state :-Some are of a temporal, and others of an eternal nature. Now, since Providence, in subserviency to Divine Justice, manages all these punishments, and their innumerable consequences, how mistaken is Mr. T. when he insinuates, that our doctrine supposes God to be an idle spectator while sin is committed!
5. With respect to the gracious tempers of the righteous, we believe that they all flow, (though without Calvinian necessity,) from the free gift which is come upon all men, and from the light which enlightens every man that cometh into the world.' And as to their good works, we are so far from excluding Divine
Grace and Providence, in order to exalt absolute Free Will, that we assert, Not one good work would ever be begun, continued, or ended, if Divine Grace within us, and Divine Providence without us, did not animate our souls, support our bodies, help our infirmities, and (to use the language of our church) prevent, accompany, and follow us" through the whole. And yet, in all moral, and in many natural actions, we are as free from the laws of Calvinian Necessity, as from those of the Great Mogul.
6. With regard to the families and kingdoms of this world, we assert, that God's Providence either baffles, controls, or sets bounds to the bad designs of the wicked; while it has the principal hand in succeeding the good designs of the righteous as often as they have any success: For, except the Lord keep the city,' as well as the watchman, the watchman waketh but in vain.' And with respect to the course of nature, we believe that it is ordered by his unerring counsel. With a view to maintain order in the universe, his providential Wisdom made admirable laws of attraction, repulsion, generation, fermentation, vegetation, and dissolution. And his providential Power and Watchfulness are, though without either labour or anxiety, continually engaged in conducting all things according to those laws; except, when, on proper occasions, he suspends the influence of his own natural decrees; and then fire may cease to buru ;-iron to sink in water ;-and hungry lions to devour their helpless prey. Nay, at the beck of Omnipotence, a widow's cruse of oil, and barrel of meal, shall be filled without the help of the olive-tree, and the formality of a growing harvest;-a dry rod shall suddenly blossom, and a green fig-tree shall instantly be dried up ;garments in daily use shall not wear out in forty years; -a prophet shall live forty days without food ;-the liquid waves shall afford a solid walk to a believing apostle ;-a fish shall bring back the piece of money which it had swallowed-and water shall be turned into wine without the gradual process of vegetation.
If Mr. T. do us the justice to weigh these six observations upon the prodigious work, which God's providence carries on in the moral, spiritual, and natural world, according to our doctrine; we hope he will no more intimate, that we atheistically deny, or heretically defame that divine attribute.
To conclude: We exactly steer our course between rigid Free Willers, who suppose they are independent on God's Providence; and rigid Bound Willers, who fancy they do nothing but what Fate or God's Providence absolutely binds them to do. We equally detest the error of Epicurus, and that of Mr. Toplady. The former taught, that God took no notice of sin; the latter says, that God, by efficacious permissions and irresistible decrees, absolutely necessitates men to commit it. But we maintain, that, although God never absolutely necessitated his creatures to sin; yet his Providence is remarkably employed about sin, in all the above-described ways. And if Mr. Toplady will call us defumers of Divine Providence, and Atheists, because we dare not represent God, directly or indirectly, as the author of sin; we rejoice in so honourable a reproach, and humbly trust that this, as well as all manner of similar evil, is rashly said of us for righteousness sake.
Some Encouragements for those, who, from a Principle of Conscience, bear their Testimony against the Antinomian Doctrine of Calvinian Election, and the barbarous Doctrine of Calvinian Reprobation.
I HUMBLY hope, that I have, in the preceding pages, contended for the Truth of the Gospel, and the Honour of God's Perfections. My conscience bears me witness, that I have endeavoured to do it with the sincerity of a candid inquirer after truth; and I have not, knowingly,