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fare of his creatures. I proceed now, as was proposed, in the
Second place, To examine some of the most plausible objections which are urged against the mildness and equity of the divine administration.
Say then, O sinner, wherein hath God dealt rigorously with you ? and what cause he hath ever given you to charge him with severity ? “ Testify against him,” in what respect he hath shewn himself an enemy to your happiness?
1st, Is it the holiness and perfection of his law that you complain of? Hath he given you too accurate a rule of life? and laid too many restraints upon your natural inclinations ?--This complaint is both foolish and ungrateful. The law of God requires nothing, but what tends to make us happy; nor doth it forbid any thing which would not be productive of our misery. The very design of it is to describe and recommend that holiness, “ without which no man shall see the Lord." So that the perfection of it is no less a proof of the goodness, than of the wisdom of its Author. Were holiness indeed unnecessary, or were vice the road to happiness, the objection would in that case be just. But as there is an inseparable connexion between sin and misery; and as holiness is indispensably necessary to qualify us for the enjoyment of God, it must follow, that to find fault with the purity of his law, is to find fault with it for being too much adapted to our interest. It is not therefore less absurd, than if a scholar were to blame his master for the excellence of the example which he had given him to copy; or than if a traveller should quarrel with his guide, for directing him with too much exactness in the way.
2dly, Do you complain of the threatenings with which this law is inforced ? Doth God appear severe, because he hath said, that the wicked must either turn from his evil ways or die? This complaint is surely as unreasonable as the former. Shall God be reckoned an enemy to your happiness, because he useth the most effectual means to promote it ? Can he be supposed to desire your misery, who so earnestly warns you of your danger, and who so warmly pleads with you to avoid it? Should one find you running towards a precipice in your sleep, would you blame him for stopping you, though perhaps he might interrupt you in the enjoyment of some pleasant dream? Were you ready to sink in deep water, would you not reckon that man your friend, who should save you from drowning, even though he dragged you out by the hair of the head ?-- This is the very purpose, or the friendly design of all God's threatenings. He publisheth them, that they may never be executed; he makes them terrible, that the terror of them may persuade men to avoid them. Had God published a law, and concealed the importance of it, with respect to our happiness or misery, would not the objection, in that case, against his goodness, have been far more just and rational ?-If his threatenings prevail with you,-never shall you have cause to complain of their severity ; and if they do not prevail, with what face can you allege that the penalties are too high, when, at the same time, your own practice confutes you, and proves, that they are not high enough to restrain you from incurring them. But,
3dly, Perhaps your objection doth not lie so much against the publication of the threatenings, as against the final execution of them. You see their use to overawe mankind in this world; but you think, that it would be cruel in God to inflict them in good earnest, and to punish men eternally for sins committed during the short period of their abode on earth. Now, in answer to this, let me only ask you, whether those threatenings would be of any use at all, if the sinner knew that they would never be executed ? or even if the execution of them were in the least degree doubtful. He who can make subjects helieve that their governor means only to frighten them
with his penalties, will easily make his laws of no effect, and set offenders loose from every restraint. The belief of the execution is therefore absolutely necessary to the efficacy of the law, which otherwise could only be an engine to work upon fools. And if it be necessary in all cases, that subjects should believe that the law will be executed, then it follows, in the present case, that the threatenings of God shall certainly be executed at last. For God cannot lie, nor make it the duty of mankind to believe a lie. He has no need of such base means to keep the world in order. If the penalties, as they are described in the law, be consistent with the goodness of God, the inflicting of them at last cannot in reason be sustained as an objection agaiust it. Say then, O sinner, what farther hast thou to allege against God? The appeal is made to you in the text, and a challenge given you to bring forth all your objections against his laws and government. Do you blame him in the
4th place, For the temptations you meet with in the world, and those circumstances of danger with which you are surrounded? Let us consider a little the justice of this complaint. The strongest temptations, you must allow, have no compulsive efficacy; all that they can do is to solicit and entice us. And are there not addressed to us far more weighty arguments and solicitations to for, sake sin, and to walk in the paths of wisdom? If we cannot resist the devil and the flesh, how can we refuse what God demands, who pleadeth with us by infinitely stronger motives than they can present to us? for he sets before us the endless joys, or the endless torrents of a future state of existence. Doth not the undefiled inheritance of the saints in light, infinitely transcend all that earth or sense can promise us? and yet shall we pretend to justify ourselves, when, contrary to all reason, we prefer the pleasures of sin, which are but for a moment, to the eternal happiness and glory of the world to come?
-Once more, in the
5th place, Do you object that you cannot reclaim or convert yourselves ? that man can do nothing towards his conversion, unless he shall receive power from on high ? that therefore you are excusable, until God shall impart his assistance ? and that, if you perish, it is not your fault?
My brethren, we must not speak falsely even for God; nor suppress or disguise the doctrines of his word, however they may be abused by carnal and obstinate sinners.
It is true, that man, in his natural state, cannot do any thing that is spiritually good ; for “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” It is equally true, that God is a debtor to no mar, but is the free disposer of his own grace, giving it when and to whomsoever he pleaseth: But it is no less true, that there are certain means of his appointment, in the use of which alone we have reason to expect his aid; and he who doth not improve these faithfully, complains with a very bad grace; at least, and is justly chargeable with his own damnation.
You cannot convert yourselves,—but cannot you forbear to curse and blaspheme the name of God? Cannot you restrain yourselves when your nature is duly refreshed with meat and drink? Cannot you keep at a distance from evil company, and avoid many occasions of sinning, and temptations to sin ? It is certainly in your power to perform many of the external acts of religious worship. You can go to church, if you are so disposed, as easily as you can stay at home, or ride abroad for
your amusement. You can go to your closet as easily as to the tavern. What hinders you to read your Bible, as well as any other book? to meditate on what it contains, and on its rast importance to your everlasting interest ?
Have you then done these things, or have you not done them? Have ye avoided the tempting occasions of evil ? Have ye used the means of grace, and attended seriously upon the ordinances of God's worship ?-If you have neglected to employ the powers you possess, who can you blame for it, that you have not obtained more extensive powers ? God will make you one day to know, that it was not he who carried you to the haunts of riot, intemperance and lewdness; that it was not he who tempted you to swear profanely, or to rail at goodness, or to quarrel with the word that should have saved you; but that all this was owing to the voluntary and obstinate wickedness of your own corrupt hearts. And, whatever excuses sinners may now feign to themselves, they must all stand speechless at last. None shall be able to plead, “Lord, I • applied to thee for converting grace, but it was refused • me.' No, God will be clear when he judgeth, and every mouth shall be stopped in that day when he passeth sentence on an assembled world.
Thus have I examined and endeavoured to refute some of the most plausible objections which are commonly alleged against the mildness and equity of the divine administration ; and from all that has been said, I hope it now appears, that nothing can be more unreasonable or blasphemous, than to lay the blame of the sinner's destruction upon God. 66 The foolishness of man,” saith Solomon, "perverteth his way ; and his hcart fretteth against the Lord," Prov. xix. 3. This is the true account of the matter. The sinner destroys himself by his own wilful and obstinate folly, and then he accuses God, as if lie were the cause of his misery; although God hath done every thing to save him, which could have been done by the righteous Lawgiver and Governor of the world.
The lying lips shall ere long be put to silence. The workers of iniquity shall stand self-condemned before the awful tribunal, and all their vain and impious pretexts and excuses, instead of availing them in that day, will only serve to increase their shame and confusion. With what inconceivable remorse and anguish will the sinner then review his past conduct ? How contemptible will those temptations then appear to him, which he once magnified so much, when he shall compare them with the