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out of sin, and that God permits sin for the sake of the good he makes it the occasion of. The Bible is built on this plan. In this consists the glorious work of redemption, which is the chief subject of the whole Bible. In this the wisdom and glory of God appear and are displayed, and on this all our well-grounded hopes are built. The great good we hope for, is a good that is to be brought out of sin. And the Bible teaches us, at the same time, how odious and criminal sin is, and offers the greatest discouragements to sin and motives to holiness. Our text is most directly against you. If you will carefully read it over, you will find yourselves pointed out and expressly condemned in it. I do not see how you can well make a declaration more contrary to the Bible than this, which is so often found in your mouths. And it is quite evident that you cannot really like such a book as the Bible is, however you may pretend, or even yourselves think
do. 3. Such would do well to consider how very dishonorable this is to God, yea, how directly they speak against him.
That sin is come into the world, and that the world is full of it, they cannot deny. But they will not allow that God permitted it; but it came in contrary to his will and design, as what he could not prevent. Or, if he did permit it, they will not allow him to have any good end in permitting it; but he permitted sin, he knew not why, or, rather, for some bad end. For, at the same time, it would have been better if he had not permitted it. And now he has permitted sin ont of no good end, or since sin has come into the world in spite of him, as he could not prevent it, they will not allow him to make the best of it, and bring good out of it; because, if he does so, he will excuse and justify the sinner, and give all imaginable encouragement to sin, and make himself unreasonable and unrighteous in forbidding and punishing it.
And now, what a deity, what a god is this! Surely this is not the true God. How impotent and weak, how contemptible, is such a god! How disappointed and unhappy, while outdone, conquered, and triumphed over by his greatest enemy, and he not able to help himself! If things were so, they would be, so far, just as the devil would have them. He would be glad to fill the world with sin in spite of God. He would rejoice to have God's hands tied so that he could not prevent sin. Or if he could prevent it, and so it must come in by his permission, he would have God permit it without proposing any good end in it, or without being able to answer any by it. The devil would be glad to have it so that God could not bring any good out of sin, without at the same time encouraging sin and excusing the sinner. Thus, this sets the
devil up, as doing his will, at least on earth, and as having power above the Almighty — power to fill the world with sin and mischief, which God could not prevent; or if he could, now he has suffered it to take place, can by no means help himself in the matter by making it answer some good end.
What mean and unworthy notions must such have of God! They degrade him almost as low as the idols of the heathen, which have eyes, but see not; hands, but handle not; feet, but walk not. They represent him, either as not seeing the bad consequences of sin, or unable to prevent them though they were seen, or bring any good out of sin ; and so as having, in a great degree, lost the world he had made.
God grant none of us may have such dishonorable thoughts of him. No; " our God is in the heavens, - he hath done whatsoever he pleased. He doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou ? And those that walk in pride he is able to abase." infinitely able to keep sin out of the world he had made; and consequently he permitted it to take place, and that because he saw it would be the occasion of the greatest good, an advantage to the universe. And he is continually governing the world, and ordering all events so as to answer the great and good ends he proposed in the permission of sin, and will, in the end, completely accomplish all the purposes and desires of his heart. And at the same time he brings good out of sin, he more clearly discovers his hatred of sin and its desert, and exhibits greater discouragements to sin and stronger motives to holiness than if no good had been brought out of sin. The devil shall be utterly and perfectly defeated and overthrown, with all finally impenitent sinners, and God shall be glorified by all they have done, and elect angels and men shall reap advantages from it to all eternity. That such a God reigns, may well be matter of joy to all; and let those who think and speak against him repent and reform, and give glory to God.
II. I would expostulate, in a word or two, with those who make a handle of this doctrine, that sin answers some good ends, to excuse and encourage themselves and others in sin. They take it for granted that all sin answers some good end, and profess to believe that this is a doctrine of the Bible; and often speak of this as a palliation and excuse for their sin, and the sin of others, and as if this was an inducement to it. Now, such are desired seriously to consider the following things :
1. By drawing, and acting upon such a consequence, you renounce the Bible. For, as has been shown, nothing can be
more contrary to the Scripture than this. Now, by renouncing the Bible, you renounce the doctrine from whence you pretend to draw this consequence, and take encouragement to sin, and so build upon nothing at last; for in your very building, you pull down the foundation you pretend to build upon. “ The Bible,” you say, “ teaches that sin is made the occasion of good.” . Very well, so it does. “Well
, then," you say, “ this is a great encouragement to sin; let us sin that good may come.”
know the Bible disallows of. And if the Bible is not to be minded in this case, then it is not to be depended upon when it reveals the doctrine from which you draw this consequence and encourage yourself to sin. Thus men must contradict themselves, as well as the Bible, in order to make any such improvements of this doctrine.
2. You do not value and desire that good which God brings out of sin, and therefore never felt any encouragement from this to sin, as it has been proved that no man ever did, or possibly can do. As, therefore, you pretend to that which is impossible, it is nothing but pretence and hypocrisy in you. You care nothing about God's glory, and the holiness and happiness of the angels and saints; you are after a good of your own, which has no relation to this good. If you could promote a million degrees of the good which God makes sin the occasion of, by lifting up your finger, you would not do it. Surely, then, this was never any encouragement to you to sin.
3. They who thus abuse this doctrine are certainly in the way to eternal destruction. And if you continue thus to abuse this glorious truth of the gospel all your days, you will fall under the condemnation denounced against such in the text, and the justice of God will shine bright in your eternal damnation. You will not see when good comes, or have any part or lot in this matter, as your heart is not right with God, but in direct opposition to him. You will be shut out in darkness, where there is weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. But Christ's throne shall be guiltless, and established in righteousness; and on his seed shall be light, and peace, and joy forever. God will be forever glorified, and answer his own ends in your eternal damnation.
I conclude all with a word of exhortation.
I. Let all hence be exhorted to seek after the knowledge of God's ways, and a heart to justify and approve of them.
1. Seek after the knowledge of God's ways.
It becomes us to cry after knowledge, and lift up our voice for understanding; to seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures, if by any means we may find the knowledge of God. But how shall we find the knowledge of God? Why, no other way but by searching into his works, as they are held up to our view in creation, providence, and divine revelation. It is by understanding God's ways that we come to the knowledge of God. God discovers himself to creatures only by his ways and works. These are the glass held forth in the Bible, in which the glorious God is exhibited to creatures. And it becomes us to search into them with diligence, care, and painful study. “ The works of God are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein." They are sought out with diligent application of mind and earnest inquiry. He that is slothful, and inattentive to these matters, he, I say, is "the brutish man that knoweth not, and the fool that doth not understand this."
It is to be lamented that so many are no more inquisitive after the truth; are even too lazy and careless to inquire and examine for themselves, and so make no proficiency in Christian knowledge, but are quite ignorant, and groping in the dark in the midst of the rich means of instruction we enjoy. St. Paul speaks to Christians as under obligation to make proficiency in knowledge, and blames them much that when for the time they ought to be teachers of others, they had need that one should teach them again the first principles of the oracles of God, and exhorts them not to rest in the knowledge of the first principles of Christianity, but to go on to perfection. (Heb. v. 12; vi. 1.)
I know it is insisted on by many as a maxim of importance, " that we content ourselves with the plain, indisputable things of religion, and not meddle with dark, intricate, and disputable points."
But this is, I think, as much as to say, “ Be sure to take no pains to inquire into and understand what you know not already, but be content to live and die in ignorance.” For what is there plain to a person which he does not already know? And what is there which is not dark and unintelligible until by thought and application of mind it is understood? And what peculiar doctrine of Christianity is there that is not disputed, or looked upon as dark and intricate, by some?
I have different, and, I trust, better advice to give you, my hearers. Search the Scriptures daily, that you may know whether these things are so. Strive to grow in knowledge, that you may not be babes, but strong men, who, by reason of use, have your judgment exercised to discern both good and evil. And in order to this, prove, examine all things, and hold fast that which is good.
The most of God's ways revealed to us in the Bible have respect to sin, or do some way relate to it, (such as his permitting it, punishing it, redeeming men from it, and bringing good out of it.) If, therefore, we do not understand this, we know but little of God and his ways. Let us, then, search the Bible; and, at the same time, constantly and earnestly cry to the Father of lights, that he would teach us his ways, and open our eyes to behold the wonderful things in his word. Seek a heart to approve of all God's ways.
This will lay the best, and, indeed, the only foundation, of rightly knowing God's
ways. This is, in a true sense, to have an understand. ing heart. In this true wisdom consists. Knowledge will be easy to him who has this understanding, while the scorner (whose heart opposes God's ways) seeketh wisdom and findeth not. (Pr. xiv. 6.) " The meek (who have a humble, pliable, submissive heart) will God guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way.” (Ps. xxv. 9.) 66 Who is wise, (truly holy,) and he shall understand these things ? prudent, and he shall know them? For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall therein." (llos. xiv. 9.) “ None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.” (Dan. xii. 10.) He who has a heart to do God's will, he is most likely to know of the doctrines he inquires into, whether they be of God or not; he cometh to the light. But he whose heart opposes God's ways hateth the light, and holds the truth in unrighteousness, or turns aside to error and delusion, and embraces falsehood because he loves to have it so.
How unhappy is the man who has a lie in his right hand, and cannot deliver his soul because his heart, his corrupt heart, has turned him aside from the truth! This, it is to be feared, is the sad case of many at this day. They have no heart to love the truth; therefore God has left them to strong delusion — to believe a lie,
God's professing people of old said, his ways were not equal. God's ways did not suit their hearts at all. And they are as contrary to the unsanctified heart now as they were then, and are doubtless as much opposed and murmured against, though under a pretence that they are not God's ways.
Let us, then, be greatly concerned to have our hearts right with God. To this end, may God take away the heart of stone and give us a heart of Hesh, in which his laws are written; and by this direct our hearts into the love of God as he is revealed in his word.
II. What has been said on this subject may be improved