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there is so much sin in the world, through the wrong use which free-agents make of their powers, Mr. T. advances an unscriptural and irrational maxim, when he says that whatever is, is right; and he imposes upon us an Antinomian paradox, when he asserts that this dangerous maxim" is a first principle of the Bible, and of sound Reason.” I repeat it: It was right in God to create free-agents, to put them under a practi. cable law, and to determine to punish them according to their works, if they wantonly broke that law; but it could never be right in free-agents to break it, unless God had bound them do it by making Calvinian decrees necessarily productive of sin and wickedness. And supposing God had forbid free-agents to sin hy his law, and had necessitated (which is more than to enjoin) them to sin by Calvinian decrees; we desire Mr. T. to shew, how it could have been right in God 'to forbid sin by law, to necessitate men to sin by a decree, and to send them into eternal fire for not keeping a law which he had necessitated them to break. ' The reasonableness of this doctrine brings to my renlembrance the boldness of Mr. T.'s challenge about
the Calvinian doctrine of Providence-a doctrine this, * which asserts that God absolutely necessitates some men to sin and be damned. See Sect. ii.
ARG. LXXIII. (p. 73.)—“Upon the plan of Mr. Wesley's consequence, the wretch was not a fool, but wise, who said in his heart, There is no God. I defy the Pelagian to strike out a middle way between Providence and chance," that is, between chance and the Calvinian notions of a Providence, which absolutely predestinates sin, and necessitates men and devils to commit it, &c. “Why did the Heatheus themselves justly deem Epicurus an Atheist? Not because he denied the being of a Gud, (for he asserted that,) but because he denied the agency of God's universal Providence.”
From this quotation it is evident, (1.) That Mr. T. 'indirectly. charges us with holding an Epicurean, Atheistical doctrine about Providence, because we abhor the doctrine of a Predestinatiou, which represents God as the Author of sin.--And (2.) that he defies or challenges us to point out a middle way between the Atheistical doctrine of Chance, and the Calvinian doctrine of Providence. This challenge is too important to be disregarded : An answer to this will conclude the argumentative part of this tract.
'There are two opposite errors with respect to Providence. The First is that of the Epicurean philosophers, who thought that God does not at all concern himself about our sins, but leaves us to go on as we please, and as chance directs. The Second is that of the rigid Predestinarians, who imagine that God absolutely predestinates sin, and necessarily brings it about to accomplish his absolute decrees of eternally saving some men through Christ, and of eternally damning all the rest of mankind through Adam. Of these two erroneous sentiments, the latter appears to us the worse ; seeing it is better to represent God as doing nothing, than to represent him as doing wickedness. The truth lies between these two opinions ; God's Providence is peculiarly concerned about sin, but it does by no means necessarily bring it about. By this reasonable doctrine we answer Mr. T.'s challenge, and strike out the middle way between his error, and that of Epicurus.
If you ask, how far God's Providence is concerned about sin?, we reply, that it is concerned about it four ways. First. In MORALLY hindering the internal commission of it before it is committed. Secondly. In PROVIDENTIALLY; hindering (at į times) the external commission of it, when it has been intentionally committed. Thirdly. In making, bounding, and over-ruling it, while it is committed. And Fourthly. In bringing about means of properly pardoning, or exemplarily punishing it, after it has been committed. Dwell we a moment upon each of these particulars,
1. Before sin is committed, divine Providence is engaged in morally hindering the internal commission of it. Ju order to this, God does two things : First, He
forbids sin by natural, verbal, or written laws. And, Secondly, He keeps up our powers of body aud 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 striviugs 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 bis 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 : Avd, 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 kuows 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 captivity! 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 bronght 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 uthers 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 insi. nuates, 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 upou 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